2020 NFL Draft: SEC Summer Seniors – Vanderbilt RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn

The dog days of summer are upon us. What better time to jump into some film and evaluate the senior 2020 NFL Draft prospects of the SEC.

The dog days of summer are upon us; What better time to jump into some film and evaluate the senior 2020 NFL Draft prospects of the SEC.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn

Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn shocked many by returning for his senior season instead of declaring for the NFL Draft, especially as a running back. The speedy Vaughn started his college career at the University of Illinois. His freshman season he was one of the best young backs in the country rushing for 723 yards, six touchdowns, and averaged almost five yards per attempt. In his sophomore year, his usage took a massive hit, and he transferred to Vanderbilt.

After sitting out the 2017 season due to the NCAA transfer rules, Vaughn burst into the SEC. A Vanderbilt team that has surprising weapons on offense looks for Vaughn to be the home run threat for the offense. When the 2018 season ended the SEC awarded him the newcomer of the year award.

A bowl performance against Baylor that saw the back run for 243 yards and two touchdowns was thought to be the feather in the cap for Vaughn. He showed a wide array of skills and the trump card everyone knew about speed.

Instead of declaring for the NFL Draft, Vaughn decided to bring it back for one more season. The redshirt junior announced the decision on his Twitter.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the first offensive prospect of this series that evaluates the seniors around the SEC preparing for the NFL Draft on the PFN Draft page. He follows Alabama DT Raekwon Davis as the second player of the series. This series will look at strengths, weaknesses, and an initial summary based on the knowledge we have entering the 2019-20 college football season.

Attributes

Height:5’10”

Weight: 215 lbs

Strengths

When discussing Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s strengths, you would be negligent if you did not start with his game-breaking speed. There are times, against SEC defenses mind you, that Vaughn looks like he is playing at a different speed than the rest of the players on the field. In the game versus Baylor that was on display with two huge runs. Just look at the clip below and watch him find the hole, burst through and turn on the jets.

What intrigues me most about Vaughn, and what should excite the NFL is that he also shows traits of more than just a speed back. Vaughn’s contact balanced popped on tape. He’s always moving his legs and looking to get more than what the defense is giving him. He’s a “pinball runner” in the sense that to get him down you’ll need to bring more than just your shoulder. South Carolina saw this on the goal-line when Vaughn followed his fullback and rolled his way into the end zone.


That balance is a big part of Vaughn’s ability as a finisher. He is not the most powerful back at 215 pounds, but with an attitude that doesn’t let him quit, he tries to get every yard possible. Sometimes, like in that Baylor game, it results in big plays. The clip below shows him bouncing off defenders, flashing a stiff arm and making people miss in space.

Finally, and perhaps what is going to be most important going forward for Vaughn is that he keeps growing his vision as a runner. It is one thing to be fast, but it is another to see the blocks developing in front of you and cut off the lineman’s hip. He’s pretty good at setting up blocks on the second level, just needs to show some more patience for those to develop. Like many speed backs, he trusts that speed can win out versus defenders.

Weaknesses

Watching those clips above probably has you thinking this is a lock for a first round player. In a tough running back class, that may be a reach here, but he’s got traits that will get the NFL excited about him. There are also concerns about his game that can prevent him from being the special talent on Sunday’s.

Vaughn’s biggest issue right now is a lack of power. He finishes his run but just does not have the power to make it count. His frame looks smaller than what he is listed. There is a chance he comes back next year with more power, and that would certainly elevate his stock. There are times on tape where he’s getting taken down by arm tackles in the hole.

Even though he has prototypical size, Vaughn doesn’t use it very well. NFL teams are going to want players with his skill set to contribute on long down situations and distance. Vaughn’s got very little work in the passing game. That may change with new coordinator Gerry Gdowski taking over this season. It would help his NFL Draft stock to get more than the 13 catches he got last year. When he did catch the ball, it looked natural and allowed him to get in space, where he thrives.

Here is a clip that shows Vaughn’s lack of power or size. He gets bulldozed by the blitzing linebacker from Baylor. He’ll never be a Frank Gore level blocker, but the effort has got to be better than this. Credit him for bouncing back and dominating this Baylor defense.

Summary

In a weak 2019 running back class, Vaughn had the ability to become a day two pick had he declared. He faces stiffer competition in the 2020 NFL Draft with guys like Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Clemson’s Travis Etienne. He will need to continue to show his game-breaking speed in the tough SEC to keep pace. He’s got traits that will make him appealing to many NFL teams.

One thing is for sure, with wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight-end Jared Pinkney on the outside, teams won’t be able to key in on the speedy running back. The team’s new offensive coordinator talked up the three returning playmakers to lead a Vanderbilt offense that can score in bunches. Vaughn should have plenty of opportunities to shine this season. He will kick off the year against the Georgia Bulldogs, providing a stiff test against last year’s 31st ranked rushing defense. A statement game there will push him way up draft boards.

 

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