He was a star on the college football stage, but the translatability of Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn’s 2023 NFL Draft scouting report at the NFL level is a more complicated subject. Can Vaughn toss aside questions about his size, and take on an important role for a professional organization?
Deuce Vaughn NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Kansas State
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 5’6″, 176 pounds
- Length: TBD
- Wingspan: TBD
- Hand: TBD
Some of the biggest humans on Earth play football. You’ll see an offensive tackle who towers over his counterparts at 6’7″ or 6’8″. On the same exact field, you’ll see someone like Vaughn — who stands at 5’6″ at most.
Vaughn’s height is disarming for defenders when you first see him on tape. But then you watch him play, and you quickly forget about that number. The new number that comes to mind? The yardage he’s racking up in the open field and as a receiver.
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When people doubted him, Vaughn made them pay. Even when they respected him, he commanded more. In just three years with the Kansas State Wildcats, Vaughn amassed nearly 5,000 total yards from scrimmage and 43 total touchdowns; 3,604 yards and 34 scores came on the ground.
Meanwhile, from 2021 to 2022, Vaughn registered 91 catches for 846 yards and seven scores through the air.
When an outlier like size works against a prospect, that can cause them to stay in school and exhaust their eligibility. It says a lot that Vaughn put up a résumé strong enough to declare after just three seasons. But even now, it’ll be an uphill battle. How does he project as an NFL draft prospect?
Deuce Vaughn Scouting Report
- High-energy runner with explosive freedom, who darts out of cuts with ease.
- Spark of electricity in tight spaces with the foot speed and twitch to warp space.
- Flashes a nice mix of urgency and adaptability, using hop-steps to reset at the line.
- Size works in his favor at times, allowing him to zip through very narrow lanes.
- Has the baseline vision to follow his blocks and quickly recognize open gaps.
- Can use quick shuffle-steps to glide laterally and swim around solo defenders.
- For his size, brings impressive willing physicality and constantly churns legs.
- Has the full-field vision and speed to bounce runs outside and utilize cutback lanes.
- Elite receiving threat with smooth hands and spatial awareness as a route runner.
- Is at least a willing pass blocker who can square up and delay blitzers with his frame.
Areas for Improvement
- Massive size outlier with a dire lack of mass and width.
- With lacking mass, can be easily stalled and swallowed up running between the tackles.
- Has below-average contact balance in space and will often go down at direct contact.
- Smaller gait limits the amount of ground he can cover in gaps when opening his strides.
- At times, can be quicker to anticipate lanes inside, get skinny, and surge through gaps.
- Sometimes appears adrift approaching interior gaps, as eyes can get lost in the shuffle.
- Can be late to identify open cutback lanes outside, allowing defenders to close in.
- Early threats of contact can cause him to freeze in the backfield and crash into blocks.
- Sometimes widens his base too far when experiencing indecision, delaying his attack.
- Doesn’t quite have the dominant one-step burst to clear congestion without obstruction.
Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn Current Draft Projection
Vaughn is an outlier if there ever was one. At 5’6″, 176 pounds, he has very few case studies in NFL history to compare to. Yet, he’s definitively a draftable prospect, who grades out as an early-to-mid Day 3 player on my board.
There are questions that naturally come with Vaughn’s size. Fellow Kansas State product Darren Sproles was one player who swept away this questions as a 5’6″ back several years ago. But one could argue Sproles was a bit more explosive and streamlined as a runner.
Vaughn’s size is an in-built inhibitor to yards after contact and consistent blocking, and he can be easily swept up between the tackles. Also hurting his case is the fact that he doesn’t have elite vision or creative instincts between the tackles. When he gets into space, Vaughn is exceptional, but his over-arching utility is somewhat limited.
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Any time you have an outlier like Vaughn, you want to see if other components of their profile serve to compensate for the outlier trait. Between the tackles, Vaughn isn’t quite at that level. Luckily, however, Vaughn makes up for it in other ways.
In space, Vaughn has incredible short-area agility and twitch, and can rapidly offset and explode by defenders. His feel is better in space. On top of his space-controlling athleticism, he brings willing physicality for his size. Perhaps most importantly, he’s an elite receiving threat who can split out wide, run sharp routes, track the ball, and convert.
The honest truth is, Vaughn will never be a premier back at his size. But in the modern NFL, where committees rule, Vaughn certainly has a place. He’s a space weapon who can glide forward for gains on outside-zone runs with his explosiveness, twitch, and full-field instincts. He’s also an incredibly versatile piece in the passing game. In that kind of rotational role, Vaughn can be a valuable catalyst for an offense and a value add on Day 3.