Deuce Vaughn - RB - Kansas State
When envisioning a workhorse running back in the college landscape, it’s not often that that workhorse turns out to be 5’ 5” and 179 lbs. Regardless, Vaughn accrued over 280 total touches in each of his final two seasons in college and is even an early declare. Can Vaughn be the ultimate size outlier and find high-end success in the NFL?
Height: 5′ 05″
Weight: 179 lbs
40-yard dash: DNP
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: 35.5″
Broad Jump: 9-8
Bench Press: DNP
*age is at the start of player’s rookie year
|2020||Kansas State||Big 12||FR||RB||10||123||642||5.2||7||25||434||17.4||2||148||1076||7.3||9|
|*2021||Kansas State||Big 12||SO||RB||13||235||1404||6.0||18||49||468||9.6||4||284||1872||6.6||22|
|*2022||Kansas State||Big 12||SR||RB||14||293||1558||5.3||9||42||378||9.0||3||335||1936||5.8||12|
Vaugh showed up to Kansas State as an undersized 3-star running back, listed as a freshman at 5’ 6” and 166 lbs (NFL combine measured at 5′ 5” and 179 lbs). Despite being a lower-rated recruit and undersized, he led his team in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, receptions, and receiving yards as a true freshman. Truly the focal point of the team right out of the gate and already showing how effective he can be as an outlier.
He continued his workhorse status the following year, averaging ~22 touches per game. He amassed over 1,800 total yards and displayed his ability as both a rusher and receiver with 1,400+ rushing yards and 450+ receiving yards. It keeps getting better going into his true junior season as he was just 64 yards shy of 2,000 total yards. Still, he rushed for over 1,500 yards and once again displayed receiving prowess with 378 receiving yards. Vaughn earned Second-Team All-Big 12 each of his three seasons and was additionally awarded Consensus All-American status in 2021 and Unanimous All-American in 2022 before declaring for the NFL Draft as a true junior.
Vaughn showed immense versatility as a player, putting his rushing ability, receiving ability, and even his ability to line up out wide on display year after year. As a runner, he is patient with very good burst up the seams of the defense. His vision is consistent and deadly when he navigates through the second level. Whether he is in the teeth of the defense or out in space, he shows great elusiveness to make defenders whiff.
In the passing game, he shows reliable hands and an ability to create yards after the catch. He puts together what makes him a good rusher in the open field after the catch to create plus yardage. As a pass protector, he is surprisingly adept and plays bigger than his listed size.
Size is the obvious elephant in the room when discussing Vaughn’s prospect profile. At just 5’ 5” and 179 lbs, he would be unprecedentedly small at the position in the NFL. And that size comes with limitations. Although he plays bigger than his size and is very built at 5 ‘ 5”, it limits his play strength when he runs up the gut of the defense. That also limits his ability to be a consistent down-to-down back and being more prone to negative plays in the backfield that he has to make up for with bigger plays. Additionally, in pass protection, he looks very good for his size but can get run over by bigger defenders.
Also as a receiver, he shows elite traits at times but could be better at tracking deeper passes. That is very nitpicky and wouldn’t be mentioned for most running backs, but he is already such a plus receiver, this is an area of improvement. And there were some concerns with concentration drops that should be cleaned up at the next level.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 5-6
If Vaughn were closer to prototypical size, or even just slightly undersized, he would be in the conversation as one of the upper-tier running backs in this class. But he unfortunately is still undersized which makes him a massive outlier if NFL Teams are betting on him to hit at a significant level. That inefficiency and the other inefficiencies in his game will most likely drop him to the middle of Day 3 come the NFL Draft. He’ll most likely start his career off as a special teamer and a back with a very specific role. Vaughn’s skill set though is undeniable and there’s at least some chance that he will work his way to a meaningful role. But the odds feel stacked against him.
Tampa Bay is a team that made sense when Brady was around as a pass-catching specialist, where he could have that siloed role and succeed in it. But post Brady, we’ll see if Todd Bowles and the offense carry on with the same offensive style that was around with Brady. The Chicago Bears currently have Khalil Herbert and Dont’a Foreman in their backfield. While Herbert and Foreman have both shown flashes recently, I don’t think the Bears are against adding another body to their backfield late if they don’t earlier in the draft. Vaughn would be an easy comp to Tarik Cohen who was once an undersized pass catcher in that same backfield. But Vaughn could provide more in the run game than Tarik did.
Post Draft Analysis
Dallas Cowboys – Round 6, Pick 35
The Cowboys have officially parted ways with Ezekiel Elliott and don’t have a lot of notable names behind Tony Pollard this season. That being said, there is a non-0% chance that the Cowboys bring Elliott back on a team-friendly deal later in the offseason. Vaughn can provide the team additional depth behind Pollard and is versatile enough to contribute in many different facets. He has a natural ability that some of the other backs on this roster just don’t have, but for Vaughn, it’s always going to come back to his size. It’s unheard of for a player of his size to get a sizable workload. But Vaughn can be a back that takes some heat off Pollard and contributes to this committee.
Vaughn has a clear opportunity to be the RB2 in this offense with uninspiring names like Malik Davis, Ronald Jones, and Rico Dowdell currently in front of him. But hitching a fantasy team’s wagon to a 5’5” running back drafted late on Day 3, isn’t the best bet. Luckily, in Dynasty rookie drafts, he’s going well into the 4th round and at times undrafted. There are worse dart throws to make at that stage in drafts, and the talent is obviously present. Maybe Vaughn can catch lightning in the bottle, but for Redraft leagues, he shouldn’t be considered.