BROCK AND SALK

Huard’s Seahawks Draft Profile: A ‘flat-out baller’ at safety

Apr 3, 2024, 10:43 AM | Updated: 10:44 am

Seattle Seahawks Sione Vaki draft profile...

Sione Vaki of the Utah Utes carries the ball against the UW Huskies in a 2023 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

With the releases of former Pro Bowl selections Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, the Seattle Seahawks have a need at safety.

Seahawks signing receiver/kick returner Laviska Shenault

Julian Love is still around to man one of the two positions, but Seattle’s options to pair with Love are largely unproven. The upcoming NFL Draft is a chance for the Seahawks to add depth around Love. Utah’s Sione Vaki could be an intriguing late-round fit, and he was the focus of Brock Huard‘s Draft Profile on Tuesday.

Huard, a former NFL quarterback, delved into why Vaki piqued his interest during his daily Seahawks NFL Draft profile Tuesday on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

Sione Vaki is ‘a flat-out baller’

“I will not forget the impact that Sione Vaki has made on me over the last couple of years,” said Huard, who is a college football analyst on FOX broadcasts. “I have had Utah a bunch – I had Utah against USC in the game at night (in 2022) that was one of my favorites ever in Salt Lake City, I had USC and Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, (and) I had USC-Utah repeat this year down in the (Los Angeles Memorial) Coliseum that really knocked out and ended Caleb Williams’ Heisman hope. And in every one of those games, there was this safety that I just could not shake, and that safety was Sione Vaki.”

Huard pointed to a moment during the 2022 Pac-12 title game when USC was threatening to go up three scores and put the Utes away. On fourth down, USC decided to go after Vaki, a first-year starter, in the slot with future NFL first-rounder Jordan Addison. Vaki rose to the occasion and came away with a game-changing pass breakup (click play in the video below to see the highlight).

Vaki racked up 51 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions last season, but he wasn’t just a standout on defense. He also stepped in and made plays at running back for a banged-up Utah squad, running for 317 yards and two touchdowns, plus 203 yards and three TDs receiving.

“When Utah got so depleted at running back and they lost player after player after player, (head coach) Kyle Whittingham went into (offensive coordinator) Andy Ludwig’s office and said, ‘OK, we’re gonna do what we did 10 years ago here.’ They had a safety … his name was Eric Weddle. And when Utah was in the same position all those years ago, they took Eric Weddle and moved him from safety to running back and he played both.

“… Why did Kyle Whittingham turn to Sione Vaki?” Huard continued. “Because that dude is a flat-out baller. I could put him at running back and he could play. I could put him at safety and he could play.”

An impressive combine

Huard continued the comparison of Vaki to Weddle, who was a six-time Pro Bowl and five-time All-Pro pick during his 15-year NFL career.

“He ran a 4.62 (40-yard dash at the NFL combine), pretty good time,” Huard said. “By the way, Weddle at the combine ran a 4.56. Sione Vaki was 5-11, 210 (pounds). Weddle was 5-11, 203. So almost the same exact size, almost the same speed. The difference? Vaki jumped 39 1/2 inches, Weddle 33 1/2. … When you watch somebody do that in person, you’re like, ‘OK, that dude is just different.’ There’s a different level of explosiveness. He also repped 225 pounds 20 times (in the bench press), something Weddle could only do 11 (times).”

So, why is Vaki not projected near the top of the draft?

“He has really short arms, he’s got real small hands and he’s got to be really tight in coverage cause he’s not super long,” Huard said. “… But he’s just one of these guys that I come across every year in college football and I’m like ‘this guy just knows how to play.’ And he’s probably going to be a fifth-round pick …  I don’t know if he is a Day 1 starter, (but) he’s a Day 1 special teamer, he may be a Day 1 returner, he may be the versatile guy you want on the roster on the back end.

“… By the way, when he plays safety, he’s just got an instinct and he’s got a hitting power that is unique,” Huard added. “So Sione Vaki is a guy in those mid-to-late rounds, if his name comes off the board in the fourth or the fifth round for the Seahawks, sign me up as being pretty excited.”

List to Brock Huard’s full Seattle Seahawks Draft Profile on Utah’s Sione Vaki in the podcast here or in the player near the top of this post. Catch a new profile at 9 a.m. Monday through Thursday during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk leading up to the NFL Draft.

More Seattle Seahawks draft profiles

• Brock’s Seahawks Draft Profile: A fullback option for the offense
• Brock’s Seahawks Draft Profiles: ‘The best center’ in the 2024 class
• Brock’s Seattle Seahawks Draft Profile: ‘Twitched up’ LB fills a need
• Brock’s Seattle Seahawks Draft Profile: Pros, cons of UW DE Bralen Trice
• Brock Huard’s Seattle Seahawks Draft Profiles: Penn St’s eye-opening TE

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