METAIRIE, La. — It’s not that Kenny Vaccaro isn’t a player with tons of upside.
It’s not that the Saints didn’t need help at safety.
It’s just that from afar – that is, outside the Saints’ war room – safety would fall below linebacker and defensive line as areas of issue.
And the first round of the draft played out almost exactly as the Saints needed it to to fill those positions.
As the clock neared 9 0’clock in the evening, linebacker Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones were available. So, too, were defensive tackles Sylvester Williams and Sharrif Floyd.
Yet, New Orleans went all counter-intuitive, selecting a safety that will be forced into competition immediately with two incumbent starters.
While coach Sean Payton didn’t go into specifics on other players, it was clear that New Orleans’ decision-makers were over-the-moon about Vaccaro’s flexibility and versatility.
He can play three positions – free safety, strong safety and the nickel cornerback position.
He can tackle well, seen in the fact that he led Texas with 107 tackles as a senior.
Vaccaro could end up being a solid player, one who spends seasons with New Orleans as a steadying presence in the secondary.
But I look at this as a missed opportunity for the Saints to pick up a player whom could have made a real difference at a position of greater need.
Specifically, it’s the two linebackers listed above – Jones and Ogletree – whom could have helped.
Anyone who watched Georgia over the past few seasons saw the difference both players made on a defense that was in need of leaders and difference-makers. Jones was the former and both were the latter.
Each certainly had their own issues.
Jones didn’t “test” well in pre-draft workouts and his spinal stenosis likely scared some teams, if not the Saints. But his on-field instincts are something that can’t be taught and his aggressive, 110-percent attitude are something the Saints could have used.
Ogletree is a character guy; he served a four-game suspension at the beginning of this past season for testing positive for pot and was hit with a DUI this offseason.
Still, Ogletree has that game-changing ability that’s rare to find. He blocked six punts, including one he returned for a touchdown, as a sophomore. As a junior, he blocked six more punts and three interceptions as a starter.
The Saints have a need at linebacker, someone to play opposite Victor Butler.
Regardless, the pick is in and it’s Vaccaro.
Now it’s up to him to prove all the naysayers wrong.