Once upon a time, the Dolphins interviewed a Texas safety on three separate occasions prior to the NFL Draft. The Dolphins that year held the No. 12 overall pick, and most mock drafts had the team going with either the Texas safety or a gynormous nose tackle out of Tennessee. For most, the decision between a ball hawk safety and a two-gap clogger is an easy one--you go with the guy who gets you interceptions; preferably a boatload of them. Sure, the Texas safety was undersized, but who gives a rat's a** about size when the guy can roam centerfield like Ken Griffey Jr. circa 1993? As for the Tennessee nose tackle, well, he flashed the ability to split double teams and disrupt the backfield, but not on a level that validated drafting him over the Texas safety. No sir-ee. This was a drop in the bucket ... or was it?
Of course, the Dolphins didn't take the safety (Earl Thomas) at No. 12, nor did they go with the bovine-sized nose tackle (Dan Williams). They didn't go with anyone at No. 12; rather, they traded down to No. 28 overall and selected ... Jared Odrick?
Dolphins fans now refer to such a selection as getting "Parcell'd."
For Miami, this year's draft landscape is awfully similar to the 2010 NFL Draft--the Dolphins own the No. 12 pick, and a hotshot Texas safety--this time, it's Kenny Vaccaro--is among the prospects currently in the mix for that selection. Is this fate's way of giving Miami the opportunity to atone for passing on Thomas three years ago? Maybe, but the possibility of Vaccaro becoming an overall better pro than Thomas also exists (emphasis on "possibility").
Even a quick glance at Vaccaro's tape reveals why the former Longhorn is such a hot commodity this spring. He possesses ideal size (6'0", 210) and speed (likely a low 4.4) for the position, and boasts as complete a skill set as you'll find in a college safety. Vaccaro is equally at home playing centerfield, lining up against slot receivers, taking on the run, blitzing, etc., and he's also capable of delivering big hits over the middle. His closing speed is impressive, as is the technical know-how and awareness he displays in man coverage. Not a pure cover man, but certainly better than the majority of safeties in the NFL.
Coverage skills are what ultimately set Vaccaro apart from the rest of this class, but his ball skills are considerable, as well. He isn't necessarily the pure interception machine Thomas was during his time in Austin, but Vaccaro gets to the ball in a flash and excels at disrupting receivers and punching the ball loose. That's an ability I believe Vaccaro will continue to develop at the next level.
Where Thomas fell short as a prospect was his physicality and ability to take on the run. Those areas aren't a problem for Vaccaro, however, as he's a refined tackler, and shows the willingness to shoot in from long distance in order to finish off the ball carrier.
Vaccaro's high-end athleticism, complete skill set and positional flexibility are why he's regarded as the best safety in 2013. Add in the fact that Vaccaro is, by all accounts, a person of high character, and you have a player who could prove irresistible to Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins by the time April rolls around.