The NFL Draft is behind us, rookie drafts are taking place, and as dynasty managers, we are looking ahead to the upcoming season. In our Dynasty Rookie Post-Draft Update series, we break down all the incoming fantasy-relevant rookies, looking at their profiles and where they fit. The basis of the rookie profile involves the usage of STORM analysis, focusing on five key components: Situation, Talent, Opportunity, Risk, and Market.
Name: Deuce Vaughn
Position: Running Back
Pro Team: Dallas Cowboys
College Team: Kansas State
Draft Status: Round six, 212th overall
There are times when you catch a dynamic running prospect tumble in the NFL Draft and rookie drafts due to a couple of red flags in their prospect profile. There aren’t many running backs with the production profile and the big play ability demonstrated on tape as Deuce Vaughn. However, due to size concerns and the market being saturated with running back talent, we saw him fall to the sixth round of the NFL Draft to the Dallas Cowboys.
He’s not the first productive undersized running back to fall in the NFL Draft, and he won’t be the last one, either. This player has some characteristics in their game that could allow them to pop if the dominos fall his way, making him another litmus test for dynasty gamers in rookie drafts.
Can this outlier running back beat the odds, or is this another forgotten late-round rookie pick?
After sending Ezekiel Elliott on his way in free agency, the Dallas Cowboys needed to add some talent to the running back position. Tony Pollard is set to return from surgery for a fractured fibula. He will be playing on the franchise tag this year and is expected. Before the draft, the team made sure to sign veteran running back Ronald Jones and re-sign Rico Dowdle.
The signings allowed the team to be flexible during the draft, but nobody would argue against the team not needing more talent on the backend of the running back depth chart. The Cowboys faded the running back position until they selected Deuce Vaughn in the sixth round. He might have landed in the right situation for his skill set. The backfield is ambiguous and will probably become more ambiguous as we enter 2024.
Due to his size limitations, we aren’t expecting him to be the team’s lead back. However, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will make him the perfect complementary back for the team. Outside of Pollard, the competition isn’t that stiff, and it’s a depth chart where if he plays to his upside in camp, he will have a chance to work his way up the depth chart.
Deuce Vaughn Combine Results:
Weight: 179 pounds
Arm: 27 ¾”
Hand: 9 ½”
40-Yard Dash: 4.56 seconds – Pro Day
Vertical Jump: 35.5 Inches
Broad Jump: 9’8″
Bench Press: 17 reps
Vaughn ranks in the 1st percentile in weight at the running back position. He also measured in at 5-foot-5, making him a major outlier for even making it to the NFL, let alone developing into a fantasy asset. We saw him work out in the drills at the NFL Combine. He posted a 35.5-inch vertical and a 9-foot-8 broad jump. He did not run the 40-yard dash at the combine as he decided to wait until his pro day. On his pro day, he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash.
When we look at his size-adjusted athleticism, it’s not very encouraging. There are few running backs in the league producing at a high level who weigh less than 200 pounds. He weighed in at 179 at the NFL combine. It would be another thing if he ran in the 4.3s or even the low 4.4s. Vaughn ranks in the bottom fifth percentile in size-adjusted speed. His vertical and broad jump indicates he has less than average bursts.
His athletic profile tells us the odds are stacked against him, developing into a functional fantasy asset. We’ve seen smaller running backs carve out a role in the league. It’s just something you don’t want to bet on. His size-adjusted athleticism creates limitations that could allow him to fall behind more athletic prospects over time.
When you take his athletic specs and gauge his traits on tape, you see a running back who is very light on his feet and is assertive while working through trash at the line of scrimmage. He moves laterally very well. Even though he’s not a trailblazer, Vaughn looks fast enough on tape to get the job done.
His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and quickly turn upfield after the catch sets him apart from many running back prospects. Vaughn can add an extra dynamic in the passing game, giving him a different perspective for the coaching staff regarding their offensive game plan. They have this extra tool in their tool belt that they can use in the passing game.
You can’t ignore his size on the tape. When you are at his stature, you stand out easily when you are running around a bunch of big offensive linemen. You can see how pass blocking will be limited at the NFL level. You can also see how short-yardage and goal-line opportunities are going to be hard for him as well.
Courtesy for 4for4
The Cowboys have one of the most favorable depth charts in the league at the running back position. After Tony Pollard, it’s up in the air. After covering Vaughn’s limitations regarding his size and athleticism, capitalizing on all opportunities will be vital for him. The ball could roll his way on the backend of the Cowboys’ depth chart. Ronald Jones rushed for just 498 yards in the last two seasons and has been plagued with injuries. The rest of the depth chart are late-round or UDFA players who are just blessed to be on an NFL roster. If it’s meant to be for him to be the team’s RB2 or change of pace back, then this depth chart will give him opportunities to capture those roles.
The odds of him becoming the lead running back for the Cowboys are not good. His athletic profile does not project for him carrying a heavy workload. This team will always be looking for a bigger athletic running back to carry the team. Vaughn can work his way to being the change-of-pace off-speed pitch who gets 5-12 touches per game. In this role, his fantasy value will be game script and game plan dependent.
The downside is obvious. His lack of size and athleticism stands out like a green hat with an orange bill in camp, and he’s unable to climb the depth chart. We see him on the backend of the Cowboys roster for a little bit, but we never see him get touches on the field. This is a very real possibility, and no matter how optimistic you are about his chances, you can’t ignore it because it’s in the realm of possibilities. They also do not have any sunk cost invested in him. They can move on from him or bring in other running backs without thinking about his situation. Vaughn has to play well out of the gate.
Courtesy of Sports-Reference
What makes Vaughn a fascinating prospect is his production profile. He was very productive at the power-five level and was one of the most productive running backs in this year’s class. Every week during the college football season, you would see a Deuce Vaughn highlight come across your timeline. He posted 18 100-yard games during his final two seasons. In his last game against Alabama, he rushed for 133 yards and one touchdown. In 2021, against LSU, he rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He has proven he can run against Big 12 and SEC competition. You can throw the PAC-12 in there, too, if you want to include his 126-yard and one-touchdown performance against Stanford.
Last season, he averaged 2.35 yards after contact per attempt. We’ve seen this number tumble while his rushing volume increased throughout his career. This indicates he would be best served as a complimentary option in the run game. Also, on 291 rushing attempts last year, he forced just 57 missed tackles.
Courtesy of DLF’s Market Share App
His usage in the passing game has been steady and very involved. He led the team in receiving during his freshman season with a 23.37 percent market share of his team’s passing production. If he was a wide receiver, his receiving production would net him an age-18 breakout age. The following season he posted an 18 percent market share of the team’s passing production after finishing second on the team in receiving yards. During his junior season, we saw him post a 12.83 market share of Kansas State’s passing production. His usage in the passing game naturally decreased as his rushing volume increased.
Vaughn averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception in his career. This is a very good indicator that he can be very dangerous with the ball in space. He also had an average depth of target of 3.9 yards. This means he will earn targets downfield because, typically, you will see a lot of running backs’ ADOTs hover around the zero-yard mark since they catch a lot of passes behind the line of scrimmage.
Courtesy of MFL Rookie ADP
Vaughn is currently being drafted in the fourth round of rookie drafts with a 45.16 ADP as the RB12. His price has his draft capital and size limitations baked into his price tag, and what you want from him is his production profile combined with the opportunities offered in the Cowboys running back depth chart. The only sunk cost is gone, and you only have the opportunity cost of what’s left on the board at this stage of the draft.
The market is saying Vaughn’s odds of being a valuable fantasy asset after being a sixth-round pick aren’t good. They also say they don’t like that he’s a smaller running back. They are kicking him down the board until he’s almost free. At this price, you are getting an excellent production profile. The odds of everyone in this range hitting for your fantasy team are not good. At this draft slot, we are drafting our end-of-bench fliers.
From my personal experience in drafts, I’ve seen Vaughn go as high as the middle of the third round, and I’ve seen him fall to the fourth round. His price in leagues depends on the managers in that league.
Courtesy of DLF’s Trade Analyzer
DLF’s Trade Analyzer is in tune with MFL’s ADP, as they have him listed as a fourth-round rookie pick. He’s a very cheap asset to get in dynasty. Some veteran pivots at his price tag are Van Jefferson, Zamir White, Irv Smith, and even Leonard Fournette. Vaughn is being valued as a late-round dart throw.