Sione Vaki knows he’ll ‘earn his stripes’ on special teams in Detroit

USA Today

Lions fourth-round pick Sione Vaki offers up an unusual profile. He played safety at Utah but was also a running back, and NFL teams viewed his positional fit as a variable. That was never more clear than one set of passing game drills during Senior Bowl practices, when Vaki began the drill playing defense and switched to the offensive side halfway through the exercise.

In Detroit, Vaki will play running back over safety. The 5-foot-11, 210 pound Ute knew that before the draft.

“Yes, when I came in (on pre-draft visit), I met with the offensive coordinator (Ben Johnson) as well as with the running backs coach (Scottie Montgomery), so I assumed that it was for the offensive side of the ball,” Vaki said after being drafted by Detroit.

Beyond playing running back, where the Lions have enviable depth already, Vaki was drafted for his ability and potential on special teams.

“Yeah, I was an R3 on kickoff,” Vaki stated proudly. “I was an edge on punt return. I also have some experience with returning kickoffs, as well as being in-depth for punt returns. So, I mean, I’m all about special teams. So, when it comes to that, that’s where I earned my stripes and that’s where I’ll kind of earn my stripes as well there, in Detroit.”

The Lions do have a bigger need for help on special teams. Three fixtures of coverage and return units — CB Chase Lucas, DB Will Harris and LB Anthony Pittman — are no longer on the team. Vaki’s experience and versatility should slide right into one of those roles.

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