Many draftniks, including myself, consider Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro to be the top safety in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft. I will save my full breakdown of Vaccaro for a later post, but should the Pittsburgh Steelers wind up selecting him, or any other top safety for that matter, in the first round, it would be only the second time in the Super Bowl era, and maybe in the entire history of the franchise, that they drafted that position with their first selection.
Ten years ago was the first time the Steelers drafted a safety in the Super Bowl era in the first round when they traded up to draft Troy Polamalu out of USC. I would say that worked out pretty damn good.
While Vaccaro certainly is fun to watch on tape, he certainly isn\’t in the same class as Polamalu was when he was a draft hopeful. Polamalu is one of those special players that only comes around once every blue moon, and the Steelers were lucky that he dropped down far enough for them to be able to trade up to the 16th spot to get him.
So what about prior to the Super Bowl era? Everyone will likely point to the 1964 draft when the Steelers drafted Paul Martha, but he was actually used as a flanker initially by head coach Buddy Parker. Martha eventually was moved to safety a few years later, but he was not drafted to be one initially, according to my research.
Prior to Martha there was Gary Glick, the first round bonus pick of the Steelers in 1956. Newspapers have written, however, that head coach Walt Kiesling drafted Glick to be a cornerback and kicker initially. Glick is mentioned in the book, “Ruanaidh – The Story of Art Rooney and His Clan“, as a player that turned out to be a serviceable, if unspectacular safety, who ended up being traded to the Washington Redskins in 1959 after Parker become the head coach.
So are safeties a risky pick in the first round? Do they have a high bust rate? Let\’s look at some the names of the safeties drafted in the first round dating back to 2000. That list includes Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, Kenny Phillips, LaRon Landry, Michael Griffin, Reggie Nelson, Michael Huff, Donte Whitner, Sean Taylor, Roy Williams, Ed Reed, Adam Archuleta, Rashard Anderson and Polamalu. Not a bad list of players, but 8 of them were drafted prior to the 17th overall selection in the first round.
If indeed Vaccaro is regarded as a the top safety in this class, which really isn\’t star laden in the first round, odds are he will be off the board by the time the Steelers pick.
A lot of times history is just that, but judging by everything I posted above, it would be a little surprising if the Steelers drafted a safety in the first round, especially considering that this is the deepest safety class in several years.