Offering a similar blend of size, athleticism and physicality that has helped six former UT defensive backs earn top 50 selections in the NFL draft since 2006, Vaccaro turned down the NFL a year ago despite the fact that he likely would have joined the group. He reportedly was given a second round grade from the traditionally conservative NFL Advisory Committee.
Instead, by returning for his senior campaign and repeating as a First Team all-conference selection in 2012, he could wind up the highest selected Longhorn since the man he replaced, Earl Thomas, was selected 14th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.
Like Thomas, who left after his redshirt sophomore season, Vaccaro saw playing time immediately, registering 19 tackles, a blocked punt and a forced fumble.
He earned a starting job as a sophomore, registering 56 tackles, four tackles for loss and continued his big play ways by posting an interception, a forced fumble and another blocked kick. He also earned the team's special teams MVP award.
Vaccaro emerged as arguably the best safety in the Big 12 as a junior, posting 82 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, eight passes broken up and two interceptions. While the Longhorns' talented defense struggled with consistency in 2012, Vaccaro shined, registering a career-high 107 stops and five turnovers (two interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery).
While lacking the straight-line speed and ball skills that have helped Thomas emerge as a Pro Bowl player, Vaccaro's greater size and versatility could earn him a surprisingly similar grade, should he run well in pre-draft workouts.
Often asked to drop down from his free safety position to cover the slot, demonstrating a smooth backpedal, hip turn and the burst out of his breaks to stay in the hip pocket of his opponent. Hasn't generated the number of interceptions of prior UT defensive backs, but has good ball skills and showed greater willingness to jump routes as a senior.
Highly aggressive run defender. Flies to the line in run support, demonstrating a physical pop and generally reliable open-field tackling skills. Possesses the long, strong arms for the drag-down tackle, as well as good closing speed in pursuit and on the occasional blitz.
Weaknesses: Can get out of control in his aggression toward the line of scrimmage. Will duck his head in his attempt to make the big hit and leave cut-back lanes for patient, explosive runners to take full advantage. Must do a better job of wrapping up, rather than leading with his shoulder.
Hasn't shown the consistency as ballhawk considering his hype, recording only five interceptions in 51 career games. Teams will want to ask Vaccaro about a few run-ins with authorities. He was reportedly arrested following a fight with another Texas student in 2009 and again in 2012 after failing to obey a lawful order, a misdemeanor.
Compares To: Eric Weddle, FS, San Diego Chargers -- Like the highly instinctive and versatile Weddle, Vaccaro has the athleticism and size to line up wherever his NFL team needs him most. Vaccaro hasn't yet shown the same ball skills as the Chargers' Pro Bowler but showed signs of improving in this area as a senior.