From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn.
#22 Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State (JR) – 5050, 179LBS
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Deuce Vaughn||5’5 179lbs||9 1/2||27 3/4||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Runs with toughness, driving legs after contact and falling forward for max yardage
— Can make defenders miss in a phone booth, has exceptional evasive maneuverability
— Transitions from elusive to power styles seamlessly, never relying on one over the other
— Quality receiving back, runs a diverse route tree
— Willing and assignment-keen pass blocker
— Size is particularly concerning the shortest recorded player in NFL Combine history is also slight on his frame at just 179 pounds
— Doesn’t break through contact consistently
— Inconsistent vision, struggles to create for himself when blocking breaks down
— Struggles to take the edge and turn the corner on outside runs
— Gets overpowered by blitzing defenders as a pass protector, only provides a brief stay for the quarterback
— 767 career touches in college, enough left tread on his tires?
— Birthday: November 2, 2001 (21 years old)
— Birth name is Christopher Vaughn II
— Is the shortest recorded player in NFL Combine history (since tracking began in 2003)
— 2021 and 2022 consensus All-American
— 2020 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Freshman All-American
— Father, Chris, is the assistant director of college scouting for the Dallas Cowboys
— 3-star recruit out of Texas
— One of just two Big 12 players to ever record 3,600 rushing yards and 1,250 receiving yards in a career, doing so in 13 fewer games than the other player, DeMarco Murray from Oklahoma (50 games) and one of five nationally at the FCS level
— His 4,884 scrimmage yards rank fourth all-time in Big 12 history
— Career stats: 651 carries for 3,604 yards and 34 touchdowns with 116 receptions for 1,280 yards and nine touchdowns
— Part of NoBull advertising campaign, featured in national commercials
Despite his stature, Deuce Vaughn is a difficult player to miss for anyone that watched the Kansas State Wildcats over the past two seasons. He’s simply a magnet for explosive plays. Of course, standing at just 5’5” and weighing just under 180 pounds, his case is one of the few times that I draw significant concern over the overall size makeup of a skill player.
Still, the ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands will likely be his ticket to playing time in the NFL, even if it’s as a return man to start. This memorable play against TCU in the Big 12 Championship game is a prime example. When Vaughn has daylight, he can be quite dangerous as he hits the open field. Then he can display some sickening jukes to extend the play even further.
He can utilize those jukes in a phone booth too. So often a defender thinks he has Vaughn dead to rights only to realize there’s nothing but air in front of him. Here against the Sooners, Vaughn creates for himself as a defender meets him in the gap and then shakes a second as he picks up the first. Each move shows off variety in his elusiveness, the first more of a wiggle move, the second much more emphatic with the stiff leg plant and turn upfield.
Vaughn has a low center of gravity and not just because of his stature. He runs with great forward balance and body control. It explains why he’s able to transition from elusive efforts to power so well during a single carry. Watch here against Oklahoma again as he jukes the cornerback near the line of scrimmage and then lowers his shoulder to fight for the first-down marker.
Still, for all of his elusiveness and grit, his size will let him down. When defenders get their frame on him, it’s usually game over for Vaughn. He’ll fight for yardage, sure, but he doesn’t break through contact often and is easily overpowered at the point of contact. This example here against TCU sees him getting swarmed by a safety and taken to the ground with ease.
It also costs him as a pass protector. Vaughn is more than willing to stick his nose into a defender’s chest. However, it’s clear he can only provide so much in this area. Often he’ll initiate contact before the defender is quickly able to shed his attempts. The positive is that he does provide some extra time, as he does here against Texas. The negative is that his efforts simply won’t be sustainable at the next level.
Frustratingly, Vaughn is quite capable of being involved in explosive plays, but he seems to struggle to create for himself. His decision-making is solid, but his vision is lacking, coinciding with his struggles with breaking tackles. Couple all of this with a slower approach to the line of scrimmage and you’ll see Vaughn get stacked up at the line of scrimmage quite a bit as he does here against the Longhorns.
Vaughn really shines in the passing game. He runs a great variety of routes, both out of the backfield and emptied out into the slot. He seems to have a firm understanding of how to add just a touch of nuance to his route to create separation. Check out these two deep plays. The first is a seam against Texas from the backfield. He gives a bit of a shake and contact to the linebacker before sneaking behind him and snagging the pass for chunk yardage and then showing off some of his open-field ability.
The second clip comes from the slot (bottom of the screen) against TCU. This double move post route is sold just enough to give him a step on the safety. Then he climbs the ladder and comes down with the contested catch to set the Wildcats up for a walk-in touchdown.
It goes without saying that Vaughn doesn’t have a tangible catch radius on his wingspan alone. That doesn’t keep him from making high-effort plays on the ball as he did in the previous clip and this final one against Oklahoma where he scrapes this pass off the turf.
I thought I would like Deuce Vaughn’s game a bit more than I did as I have a tendency of giving players the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their size concerns. That’s not to say I’m out on Vaughn as a prospect, but he is a tough sell as anything more than a future third-down receiving option for me at this point. His gritty playing style and athleticism alone should make him a valuable piece on special teams no matter where he lands, either as a returner or in another role.
Vaughn did meet with the Steelers at the NFL Combine. While the Steelers are clearly set at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots for the position, the team could use competition at the third spot regardless of whether Benny Snell returns. On his own Vaughn would be an interesting addition to supplant what has mostly been a disappointing run from Anthony McFarland. McFarland is a thicker-built version of Vaughn, but Vaughn may have enough spunk to find the field in ways that McFarland hasn’t.
Vaughn’s concerning size profile will likely see him drafted behind less talented backs, but I have a hard time believing he’s undraftable simply because he uses less measuring tape. He’s got the gumption to make a 53-man roster at a value later in the draft.
Projection: Mid-to-Late Day 3
Depot Draft Grade: 6.7 – Backup/Special Teamer (5th Round)
Games Watched: Oklahoma ‘22, Texas ‘22, TCU ‘22 (CCG)