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A position-by-position look at prospects in this year’s NFL Draft. This entry: Safeties.





INDIANAPOLIS –When NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock turns on the film of Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, he has difficulty flipping it off.

For most prospects the more film scouts watch, the more the flaws begin to show.  When observing Vaccaro, Mayock finds the exact opposite.

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"Vaccaro is the one (player) that the more tape I watched, the more I liked him," Mayock said.

"I think his coverage ability is quick feet.  He's tough as nails.  He tackles.  I have trouble thinking he's going to get past 15 or 20, even though safeties don't go that high."

Vaccaro played in 51 games (32 starts) during his four seasons in Austin, and he had the benefit of playing behind a top-15 pick at the safety position.

Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas was chosen with the 14th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and has blossomed into a Pro Bowl defender.

In 2009, Vaccaro understandably was having difficulty adjusting to life in college.

His father passed away late in his high school career and on the field, Vaccaro was an early enrollee for the Longhorns coming off a torn ACL.

Vaccaro was in Thomas' shadow every step of the way in 2009, and he patterns his game after the former Longhorn All-American.

"I just try to mold my game around his passion for the game," Vaccaro said of Thomas.  "My freshman year, I used to watch him run around the field, practicing full speed, full intensity."

This past season, Vaccaro was a consensus first-team All-American, and his versatility in the defensive backfield is something scouts covet.

Mayock mentioned that Vaccaro played closer to the line of scrimmage this season and is a rare breed that has the ability to cover slot receivers.

"I played both safeties, strong and free.  I played nickel, dime.  In some instances, I played corner," Vaccaro said.

The bloodlines in the NFL are there for Vaccaro with his uncle, A.J. Johnson, winning Super Bowl XXVI with the Washington Redskins.

With offenses continuing to add spread principles that have dominated the college game, the safety position is becoming even more of an importance at the next level for opposing defenses.

"I think people are starting to appreciate safeties more, now that tight ends are turning into freaks and controlling the middle of the field.  You've got to have a safety who can cover and come up and hit," Vaccaro said.

Texas defensive back coach Duane Akina has been in charge of the Longhorns backfield for more than a decade and sees some characteristics in Vaccaro that should translate to the next level.

"He's one of the better defensive backs to come out of here during my 11 years – and we've had some good ones walk through these doors," said Akina.


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The last five safeties drafted by the Colts:

2007:  Brannon Condren, fourth round, Troy

2006:  Antoine Bethea, sixth round, Howard

2005:  Matt Giordano, fourth round, California

2004:  Bob Sanders, second round, Iowa

2003:  Mike Doss, second round, Ohio State


An alphabetical list of safeties expected to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft (*-denotes underclassman):

Matt Elam*, Florida

Tony Jefferson*, Oklahoma

Robert Lester, Alabama

Bacarri Rambo, Georgia

Eric Reid*, LSU

Phillip Thomas, Fresno State

Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

Duke Williams, Nevada

Shawn Williams, Georgia

Note:  The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.

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