If the selection of Kenny Vaccaro by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft perplexed you a bit, you weren't alone. But what may really have you in a funk, if you are a huge LSU fan, is that a former Tiger may have been chosen instead.
Going into the the 2013 NFL Draft, Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid were seen as the two top safeties in their class with Vaccaro usually winning out as being number one. Both were projected to be picked in the later half of the first round.
Both players, though, were selected surprisingly earlier than expected since the consensus was that the Saints were targeting linebacker Jarvis Jones or defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to help fortify the new 3-4 defense being installed.
With the drafting of Vaccaro the Saints likely foiled the plans of the San Francisco 49ers, who were looking to replace the spot left vacant by the free agency departure of Dashon Goldson. Rumor was that the 49ers wanted Vaccaro and thought he may fall to them at No. 31. This was pretty evident because when the selection of Vaccaro was announced, the 49ers quickly traded up with the Dallas Cowboys for the 18th pick and selected Reid.
Could the tables have easily been turned and Reid been in Vaccaro's place? Would Reid have been the Saints pick if Vaccaro was off the board?
Reid actually appeared to impress the Saints at LSU's Pro Day; defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was seen chatting him up a good bit. So why the selection of Vaccaro instead? According to WAFB sports reporter Jacques Doucet, it was because of past injuries.
Doucet tweeted this Monday evening:
Head coach Sean Payton had said that some players were taken off the Saints board due to injury concerns, which may have explained the passing over of not only Reid but Jones as well. He also said when the Saints were finally on the clock, one other player remained as a possible pick. But if it was Reid or Jones we might never know.
All Louisiana homerism aside, Vaccaro was the best pick looking at his college career (231 tackles with 14 for a loss, 2 sacks, 24 passes defended, 5 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles) versus Reid's (199 tackles with 4.5 for a loss, 17 passes defended, 6 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles).
Vaccaro's ability to play both safety positions as well as the nickel corner spot was also a plus, with Reid mainly playing just the free safety position and having spotty coverage issues at times. Vaccaro is a bit more fluid but just as violent of a tackler.
So while it would have been nice to have a local school product put on a black and gold uniform, in the end the Saints likely chose the best player to ramp up their ailing defense and bring some diversity to the stagnant secondary.