LOCALS IN THE NFL

Offense Vs. Defense: Sione Vaki’s Best Fit With Detroit Lions

Apr 29, 2024, 1:31 PM | Updated: 4:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Former Utah Utes defensive back and running back Sione Vaki landed with the Detroit Lions in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Sione Vaki’s fit with the Detroit Lions

After his selection was announced on the draft stage as “running back,” should we expect to see the Liberty High School product primarily on the offensive side of the ball?

RELATED: Detroit Lions Select Utah Safety Sione Vaki In 2024 NFL Draft

Throughout the predraft process, Vaki was listed as a safety, the position he played with the Utes until he was called up to be a tailback in 2023 due to injuries in Utah’s backfield.

Listed as a defensive back, Vaki was the 10th safety picked in the draft when he was selected with the No. 132 overall pick during the fourth round.

Nine running backs were drafted before Vaki’s name was called by the Lions.

Following his selection, DetroitLions.com senior writer Tim Twentyman said the Lions “found themselves a really versatile player” in Vaki and that the former Ute’s “versatility and athleticism could make him a core special teamer early and potentially a weapon with the kickoff rules being changed this season.”

In a separate article, Twentyman added that the Lions view Vaki as “more as an offensive weapon and special teams threat.”

“My initial thought was to just come in and I don’t know just be wherever the coaches and organization needed me to be,” Vaki said via DetroitLions.com. “It was for the offensive side of the ball, so wherever they need me I’m ready to go.”

During the 2023 offseason, the Lions signed running back David Montgomery in free agency and selected Jahmyr Gibbs with the No. 12 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Detroit also had Craig Reynolds in its running back room.

At strong safety, the Lions picked Brian Branch in the 2023 NFL Draft. Last season, Branch was backed up by Ifeatu Melifonwu.

Aside from special packages on offense, Vaki’s path to playing time might come easier on the defensive side of the ball. However, it sounds like the Lions view the Utah standout as an offensive and special teams weapon more than a contributor to their defense.

“I think just my understanding of both sides of the ball,” Vaki added. “Being able to play in both positions and understanding where both sides want to attack. Where the offense wants to attack and things like that. In that sense I feel like it helps me out a lot.”

I expect to see Vaki used quite a bit on special teams and in a Taysom Hill-type role on offense in 2024.

“He’s a very unique player,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said of Vaki after the draft.

About Sione Vaki

Before his time at the University of Utah, the Antioch, California native was a standout player at Liberty High School.

The safety joined the Utah football program ahead of the 2022 season.

In his first season on the hill, Vaki played in all 14 of Utah’s games and started in five of those contests. Last season, Vaki had a breakout year for the Utes, starring on both offense and defense. He started 12 games at safety and became a standout running back on offense.

Vaki finished his college career with 90 total tackles, 70 solo tackles, five pass breakups, two sacks, and one interception on defense. On the other side of the ball, Vaki ran for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He also hauled in 11 receptions for 203 yards and three touchdowns.

The standout safety played in 26 games at Utah, including 17 starts.

Sione Vaki at the NFL Scouting Combine

Height: 5’ 11’’

Weight: 210 lbs.

Arm: 29 1/8’’

Hand: 8 5/8’’

40-Yard Dash: 4.62 seconds

10-Yard Split: 1.54 seconds

Vertical Jump: 39.5’’

Broad Jump: 10’ 5’’

Bench Press: 20 reps

Kyle Ireland is a Sports Producer and Locals in the NFL Insider for KSLSports.com. Listen to Ireland on Yards After College: An NFL Podcast. Follow him on X (@kyleireland), Threads (@kyleirelandksl), and Instagram (@kyleirelandksl).

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Offense Vs. Defense: Sione Vaki’s Best Fit With Detroit Lions