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2023 Rookie Profile – Deuce Vaughn, RB

Size matters in the NFL and Deuce Vaughn, unfortunately, will always have the same criticism. He's dynamic and fun to watch, how can he succeed in the NFL? @FFPeeblesChamp breaks it down! #2023NFLDraft

Deuce Vaughn has been one of the most productive backs in college football over the past two seasons. His game film is littered with explosive plays and making would-be tacklers look ridiculous. But he’s small, historically small, and his role in the NFL will be limited by it. Let’s dive into his profile. 

Profile

  • College: Kansas State
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 179 lbs. 
  • Age: 21 yrs. (November 2, 2001)
  • Year: Junior
  • Hand Size 9.5”
  • Arm Length 27.75”
  • Vertical Jump – 35.5”
  • Broad Jump – 9’8”
  • Draft Projection: Day Three – Fifth to Seventh Round

College Career

Vaughn was a three-star back per 247Sports and hailed from Round Rock, Texas. He had seven offers after an illustrious high school career – including offers from North Texas, Arkansas, and Air Force. Vaughn took an official visit to Kansas State and committed to running back coach Brian Robinson. 

As a freshman, Vaughn rushed for 642 yards and seven scores, adding 25 receptions, and quickly proved to be the most explosive player on the Wildcats’ roster. 

His sophomore year was impressive and one of the best statistical seasons for a running back in recent years. Vaughn rushed for 1,404 yards and 18 TDs and caught 49 passes for 468 yards with four more scores. His 22 total TDs were fourth in the NCAA, and he was a Consensus All-American. 

Kansas State added quarterback Adrian Martinez and Vaughn’s numbers took a bit of a hit in 2022, as Martinez vultured goal-line touches. He still rushed for 1,558 yards but only nine scores, adding 42 receptions for another 378 yards. Once again, he was an All-American, and his 1,936 total yards led the NCAA. Very impressive again, and the diminutive dynamo opted to take his talents to the NFL. 

Strengths

Using His Size as an Advantage

Vaughn needs very little space to gain yards. He squirts through the smallest hole, and defenders have trouble locating him in traffic. It makes Vaughn an effective inside runner. 

This play above showcases how good Vaughn is at finding the crease inside, and by the time he is at the second level, the defense is helpless. He’s got breakaway speed and effortlessly glides through the secondary on many of his big plays. 

The movement skills are on full display in this clip. Vaughn starts to run outside, then quickly turns it upfield, makes a few guys miss, and then gallops into the end zone. 

The size also makes Vaughn incredibly elusive; he changes direction at full speed and can maneuver through traffic at a breakneck pace. 

Versatility

As a receiver, Vaughn is dangerous as heck – getting him in space makes him even more dangerous. He’s not going to be a reliable pass blocker, but chipping a defender, then releasing into a route, is one of his most dangerous ways to be used. He can run routes, be split out wide, and schemed ways to get the ball in space. Getting Vaughn on a defender in space is a mismatch. 

This is the perfect example of how he excels as a receiver. Vaughn swings out of the backfield, and when he gets the ball in the secondary, he’s making people miss. I love his game and what he can provide to an offense. 

Weaknesses

The Size

It’s hard to ignore. If you go just off the film, Vaughn is a phenomenal player with enticing traits. But at his size, the list of successful NFL players of similar size is virtually nil. Former Kansas State running back Darren Sproles was almost the only one. And his success was good, but he was not a dynasty asset. Sproles only eclipsed 150 touches once in a 13-year career. 

It limits Vaughn in pass protection, he simply can’t stop a defender when nearly every defender in today’s NFL will weigh 50 or more pounds and be at least six inches taller. The size limits Vaughn as an inside runner as well, especially near the goal line. He’s been adept at finding creases thus far, but it’s a bit different against NFL fronts. 

The Wrap Up

Man, I would love to find a place in the NFL and for fantasy in which Vaughn could be successful, and we roster him on our dynasty teams. He’s going to land on a team, and he will have a role. Unfortunately, I don’t see a fantasy-relevant role, and it kills me. Vaughn is a player I love rooting for, and I had him on many college fantasy teams; he’s been a blast to have on teams. 

Vaughn will likely be drafted somewhere in the round five to six range, and a team is going to get him 100 touches. He will have good production with those touches, but it’s not going to be enough for us as fantasy players. If Sproles is your comp, and if he hits that role, you’ve likely found Vaughn’s ceiling.

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