Two drafts have come and gone since Texas Longhorns had player taken in the first round of the NFL draft.
Kenny Vaccaro will be the 12th active NFL defensive back to come out of the UT program in 2013.
That streak officially ended on Thursday night as Kenny Vaccaro was selected with the 15th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints. That's right where Vaccaro was expected to go, and his top-15 selection was on the cusp of where he was rated by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr.
“Good football player,” Kiper said of Vaccaro on a recent conference call. “You have to have the justification of the numbers to get up into the top-15, and I don't think he did at this stage.”
However, the Saints ignored the numbers. That's exactly how Bleacher Report NFL Draft senior writer Matt Miller expected it to go for Vaccaro.
“It seems to be well-known that Vaccaro isn't a track star, so his 40-yard dash time didn't raise any red flags,” Miller said. “Every team I've spoken to and my own takeaways from his season show that he's athletic without being fast, so that poor 40 time won't be an issue.”
Shortly after taking the stage to receive his jersey from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vaccaro was full of emotion when speaking with the NFL Network.
“I'm shaking right now,” Vaccaro said in his interview with Deion Sanders. “My teeth are chattering. I've been grinding for this since I was four years old, and my opportunity is now here.”
With his selection Vaccaro becomes the 16th Longhorn in the Mack Brown era to be selected in the first round of the draft. When Vaccaro steps on the field for the Saints, he'll become the 12th active defensive back in the NFL from Texas.
The Longhorns have more active NFL defensive backs than any school in the country and have now had ten first round selections in the secondary since 2000. Prior to Vaccaro going in the first round, the last first round pick from Texas was Earl Thomas in 2010.
Vaccaro said Thomas gave him some valuable advice prior to the draft.
“[Thomas] told me to come in with a chip on my shoulder and be ready to make an impact,” Vaccaro told the NFL Network. “[He told me] don't wait for somebody else to take your job.”
Vaccaro figures to immediately help a Saints secondary that allowed more than 7,000 passing yards last season. Playing in an NFC South that features Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman, Vaccaro will get his chance to make an impact early against quarterbacks who love to air out the football.
“I watched him on tape and he dropped down and covered slots [receivers] man-to-man,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “I watched some of his tape from last year to see him come off hash and cover the deep stuff, and he can do that.”
As expected, Vaccaro was the first safety to come off of the board. He's the first Texas player drafted by the Saints since Ricky Williams in 1999.
He's the 56th Longhorn player drafted in the Mack Brown era. As of the end of the 2012 season, the Longhorns had 43 active NFL players, which ranked third nationally.
Marquise Goodwin and Alex Okafor are expected to come off of the board and be selected during the second and third rounds of the draft on Friday.
Statement from Mack Brown:
“Kenny Vaccaro is one of the best football players we have ever had. He is tough, he’s smart, he’s a playmaker and he practiced like he was in a game everyday. He is very passionate about football. He brings leadership and he brings toughness."
Statement from Duane Akina:
"I think first and foremost they’re getting an extremely passionate player that loves football. And not because of financial gains, and obviously that’s something that comes with it. But he just loves the game. He’s the ultimate competitor. When people ask me to compare him to someone, I always say Earl Thomas and Cedric Griffin are the first ones to come to mind. Because that’s how they really approached the games and the practices. And you’re going to get a guy that is going to be a great teammate. He’s very unselfish. While at Texas [with him] still being one of our top-tier players. Still willing to play special teams and cover kickoffs. Do all the real unselfish things you ask your great players to be. I always ask them to be selfless and do what’s best for the team. And Kenny has always done that. When we’ve approached him with some tough defends, or some tough ideas, asking him if he thinks he could do this, he was always willing to take on the difficult role to maybe make things a little bit easier for a younger player that we’re trying to take care of within the scheme of things. Ultimate team player. Very flexible. He can play man-coverage, in the deep-half or deep-third. He can blitz. It’s just hard to find a guy 214-215 pounds that has those kind of skills, that runs a 4.3 documented and line up and run with them. And still be physical enough to get in the box and play the run."