What position will Sione Vaki play for the Lions?

Sione Vaki fits the bill as a "football player" more than any player in the 2024 draft, so it's no surprise the Lions liked him.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions want football players, so it's no surprise they wanted to get a closer look at Utah safety Sione Vaki on a top-30 visit. It's also not surprising, via Mike Payton of AtoZ Sports in the days leading up to the draft, that the Lions were one of two teams (the 49er were the other) who were "heavily interested" in Vaki.

A trade up to get Vaki felt possible, and that's just what the Lions did, trading picks No. 164 and 201 and a 2025 fourth-round pick to get to No. 132 and take Vaki.

Vaki primarily played safety over two years at Utah, and he was productive there last season (51 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss). But last October, with injuries riddling the Utes' running back depth chart, a grad assistant told him he'd be with the offense during a period of that day's practice.

A few days later, lining up at running back and as a wild cat quarterback along with playing his safety spot, Vaki had 15 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown against Cal. The following week against USC, he had 217 yards from scrimmage, highlighted by five catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

At the NFL Combine, Vaki said his preferred position would be safety in the NFL. But it's clear he'll do whatever it takes to help the team, and what he did playing running back last season (7.5 yards per carry, 18.5 yards per catch) shows he has potential there.

What position will Sione Vaki play for the Lions?

Vaki is a physical, downhill safety, willing to lay big hits on people. But this analysis of Vaki as an NFL safety from Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire hit a certain note I have to highlight.

That "train track" analogy would seem to make Vaki an ideal gunner for special teams kick coverage. It was interesting when the pick was made Vaki was announced as a running back, then the Lions listed him as a safety in their social media post.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Vaki said he'll play "wherever they need me to play" after a lot of teams viewed him as a safety. He met with Lions' offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery on his pre-draft visit, and general manager Brad Holmes noted Vaki's instant chops as a running back.

"He looked so natural as a runner and I was like, 'Wait, where did these backyard instincts come from, of him just running the ball and making these plays?' " Holmes said. "And then not only has he got these instincts that are just very natural that we thought, 'He’s not even majoring in it.' ....And then he starts making these plays, running the ball and in the passing game."

So Vaki will likely be a core special teamer, while seeing snaps at running back and perhaps at safety. So what position will he play for the Lions? Wherever he might be needed, as a do-it-all type.

"He’s a football player that plays football like how we like it," Holmes said, via Birkett.

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