If you haven't figured it out yet, Safety and Defensive End are the two positions I believe will be most valuable in this evolved Big XII conference.
What makes the safety position of higher value to me is that it's much more difficult to find an all-around quality safety than it is to find a quality defensive end who wants to get after the passer. You can also run a combination of blitzes that will create pressure but there's nothing you can do to replace a guy who is the fastest on the team, covers the best receivers, and plays the entire field. Michael Huff was the easy decision for me in Round 1. I made my sentiments on how highly I value the presence of Alex Okafor (who's only in his second year at his natural position) on this year's team. I'm betting on upside.
Moving forward and selecting the players who best complement the presence of my first round draft picks was an easier process for me. Although I have many more quality options from which to choose in my fantasy draft (selecting players at Texas around my tenure), I had no hesitation deciding who would be my next pick. Looking at the reality Draft, the decision was equally easy. Both second round draft picks are as close to first round quality as possible without actually getting there. You'll see why after the jump.
Fantasy Draft 2nd Pick (Position & Player): Defensive End | Brian Orakpo
As a defensive end, if you're good at nothing else, you better be able to rush the passer no matter your size, weight, or speed. With my second draft pick, I select Brian Orakpo, who I consider the purest pass rushing DE during my tenure at Texas. I remember when he was 6'3'', 210 lbs coming out of high school.
He could get off the ball more quickly than anyone else on the defensive line from day one. He was obsessed with sacks as a statistic and it drove him to sleep, eat, and breathe punishing quarterbacks. Another feat, which I consider more impressive than any other player I've seen at Texas, was his ability to gain 45-plus lbs, get faster, and add explosive power all while playing the same position. In this new Big XII he'd be a guy you truly have to gameplan around. On most (or even all) 3rd and long situations, you'd be forced to send two blockers his way, creating opportunities for other players to make plays.
After his Defensive MVP performance in the 2007 Holiday Bowl as junior, you'd think he was a player teams would better prepare for the following year. Brian, instead, doubled his sack total from the previous year (from 5.5 to 11) and walked away as the 2008 AP Big XII Defensive Player of the Year (along with seemingly every other award known to man). If I were choosing from Longhorns defensive ends all-time, Tony Brackens would be the player that would give me serious anxiety in this selection. But, with the value of this position in the Big XII, I couldn't pass up the value Brian brings at this 2nd pick. Plus, he's a Lamar Redskin.
Reality Draft 2nd Pick (Position & Player): Safety | Kenny Vaccaro
The combination of how highly I think of Alex Okafor and the way Kenny Vaccaro has historically been used in the defense, were the reason Kenny wasn't the number one reality draft pick for me. Let's call him 1A. I absolutely cannot wait to see this kid play. My hope is Manny Diaz unleashes him this year and allows him be the true defensive field general in the secondary, much of which is contingent on the development of our younger DBs. If Coach Akina can find another guy he trusts to either cover the slot or play corner so that Byndom can move in and cover the slot, I think my wish will come true.
We've seen Vaccaro become an effective blitzer and even more effective cover guy in the slot. But I believe he'll maximize his value this year if he can play center field a bit more, giving him more opportunities to influence both the run and pass game. They won't be able to fully commit to using him that way considering the the sophistication of the offenses they'll face. But, I think he has the tools to read plays upon the snap on the ball and go make shit happen. His intensity has never been in question and his instincts have developed since being on campus.
When I think of his full skillset, I cannot wait to see him play against West Virginia at home and Kansas State on the road. Against WVU we'll absolutely need Vacarro ready to cover the entire field as they bring back eight players on a Dana Holgorsen-coached offense that can attack in so many ways.
He'll need to be the leader of the defense who's on his toes and ready to clean up any mishaps stemming from the unpredictability of Texas' first serious test. For personal reasons, I'm most excited about his last Big XII game as a Longhorn playing in Manhattan, Kansas against a well-coached K-State defense returning seven starters. It will be loud, cold, intense, and nothing like any atmosphere the team will experience all year. Vacarro is the guy on the defense I expect to bring the leadership, tenacity, and resilience needed against a team we are 5-7 against all-time and in a stadium where we haven't won since the nail-biter in 2002. We absolutely need this guy on the bus, virtually side-by-side with Okafor. I liked what I saw in College Station last year, though I am still worried about Ryan Swopes.
Again I ask, what positions do you think are the most important? What player would be your 2nd pick this year? Because I'm only able to choose from players during my tenure, guys like Tony Brackens and Earl Thomas are not in consideration on my fantasy list. Who would would you consider?
Third Draft pick(s) coming soon.