This Ke’Shawn Vaughn fantasy rookie article was written in two parts, a pre-draft profile written by Andrew Erickson and a post-NFL Draft article written by Anthony Cervino.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn Fantasy Forecast
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the 2020 NFL Draft looking ahead with Super Bowl aspirations now that they employ the unquestioned “GOAT” under center, Tom Brady. Now, all they have to do is fill in the holes around them with upside rookie pieces. One of the biggest needs for Tampa Bay was running back. While they filled the need with Ke’Shawn Vaughn with the 76th overall pick, they did wait until early in the third round to do so.
Despite waiting, the team clearly feels that Vaughn’s skill set is enough to get them over the top. A downhill rusher who can make opposing defenders miss, the 5’10”, 218-pound back is also a quality receiver out of the backfield. While the rookie could use some work in the pass-protection department, he is at least an upgrade over his new backfield mate Ronald Jones, who has struggled in pass-pro since entering the NFL two years ago. In fact, Jones has also been benched as a result of his lackluster pass protection skillset last season by Bruce Arians. It is safe to say that the team did thorough research on Vaughn’s ability to protect the quarterback before selecting him. Since the Buccaneers did not add a back in free agency, Jones is the only rusher on the depth chart separating Vaughn from RB1 duties. And barring a significant bump in the trust between Jones and Arians, Vaughn could be the go-to guy as soon as the season opener.
While on paper, it seems like Vaughn will be the top running back to own for the 2020 fantasy football campaign, I would pump the brakes. Sure, he plays on the right offense with the right supporting cast around him including Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best graded offense line ending the 2019 regular season, which was clearly before they added LT Tristan Wirfs with their early first-round pick a few days ago, but if you think this is going to be recent Patriots 2.0, you need to consider a few things.
Not only did the Patriots lack the pass-catching threats currently employed by Tampa Bay — Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are significant upgrades over Julian Edelman and Gronk, who at the time was Brady’s top target or at worst second in the pecking order — but because of the upgraded arsenal, you can make the case that the targets that James White was receiving from Brady in New England will not be there for Vaughn with the Buccaneers.
If we take it back to the last time that Brady had a pair of elite receivers, which was back in 2007 with Randy Moss, Wes Welker and to am much-lesser extent, Donte Stallworth, his top receiving back, Kevin Faulk, only drew 61 targets through 16 games played that season, well below White’s recent target shares of 95 and 123 which he saw in each of the past two seasons consecutively. I am not saying that Vaughn can’t ball-out, I’m just trying to put all of the facts on the table in terms of what Brady has to work with. In dynasty rookie drafts, I would probably pump the brakes on targeting Vaughn early in the first round. He is more realistically a late-first/ early second-round pick despite the outstanding landing spot. Should Vaughn struggle early similar to recent Tampa Bay drafted backs that include Jeremy McNichols and Ronald Jones, there are a handful of veterans they can add on the open market that includes Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Devonta Freeman.
Quick Link: Dynasty Rookie Rankings – Check out Ke’Shawn Vaughn fantasy value in our 2020 rookie rankings
Ke’Shawn Vaughn Pre-Draft Profile
Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn from Vanderbilt will enter the NFL as an older prospect at age 23. He finds himself at this age because he sat out his 2017 season because of the NCAA transfer rules. Vaughn spent his first two collegiate seasons at Illinois. In 2018 he completed his transfer to Vanderbilt. In his first season there, Vaughn put up an impressive 7.9 yards per attempt. However, he returned for his senior season at Vanderbilt instead of entering the 2019 NFL Draft. PFF graded Vaughn with an 88.5 overall offensive grade in 2018 which was 12th-highest at the running back position at the time. His yards after contact per attempt ranked fourth highest in the NCAA (5.28) and his total yards after contact (829) ranked 14th. However, he failed to replicate these numbers in his 2019 season, so it will be interesting to see how NFL teams evaluate him as he comes out as a senior in the 2020 NFL Draft.
- Height: 5 ft 10in
- Weight: 214lbs
- Arms: 30.87
- Age: 23
In 2018, Vaughn’s first year at Vanderbilt he ranked third in the SEC in rushing yards (1,244), first in yards per attempt (7.9), fifth in rushing touchdowns (12), third in yards from scrimmage (1,414), and third in touchdowns from scrimmage (14). That season as well he had ten rushes of over 40 or more yards which were more than twice as many as any other SEC player.
Via the Nashville post, Vaughn’s 243 rushing yards on 13 attempts versus Baylor in the 2018 Texas Bowl were the second-most total rushing yards by Vanderbilt player in the program’s history. Lastly, according to the Vanderbilt official football roster, Vaughn was also a standout sprinter on track and field at the high school level.
According to Sports Info Solutions Expected Points Model, Vaughn’s total points gained from being involved in the play in 2019 was a total of 48 points. That ranked sixth-highest in the 2020 draft class. They also charted him fourth in the class in yards after contact per attempt.
NFL Combine Recap
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.51
- Broad Jump: 117
- Vertical Jump: 32
Vaughn performed well at the NFL scouting combine clocking a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash (76th percentile) and recording a 1.55 in the 10-yard split (86th percentile). His jumps were not impressive, however; his vertical jump ranked fifth-worst among running backs at the combine (23rd percentile) and his broad jump ranked fourth-worst among running backs (47th percentile).
Strengths & Weaknesses
The biggest weaknesses of Vaughn outside him being an older prospect at age 23 is that he lacks elite burst and top-end speed at the next level. His explosiveness is also inconsistent. He also failed to repeat his performance from his junior season with slightly less impressive numbers in his 2019 season (1,028 rushing yards, 5.2 yards per carry) despite having more touches in the offense. Vaughn is also not much a shifty player in space; he much more often profiles as a running back that will try to run you over and embrace contact. That is not exactly a recipe for a long-term NFL career.
Vaughn is also not much of a difference-maker in the passing game, outside of running check-down options and catching dump-offs. His receiving numbers his senior season were inflated by this with his quarterback averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. His yards per reception fell from 14.0 in 2018 to 9.9 in 2019 despite more than doubling his reception total (12 vs 29). Also like most rookie running backs his pass protection is nothing special and could use some coaching. There is not anything about Vaughn that sticks out that shows he can be a special back at the next level. However, there is a lot of traits that show with the volume he can definitely be a comparable running back.
Vaughn’s strengths are highlighted by his ability to break tackles and continue to churn out yardage after initial contact. Via PFF Vaughn had the 11th highest breakaway percentage in 2018 of all running backs which highlight chunk yardage run plays. In 2019 it ranked 113th. In 2018, Vaughn’s elusive rating ranked 15th overall; in 2019 that rating dropped to 43rd.
His overall production as a receiver in 2019 was slightly underrated. His catch percentage was 87.9% (ninth overall), yards after catch (15th overall), and yards after the catch per reception (11.6, seventh overall). His yards per route run (1.28) ranked 25th of all running backs with at least 30 targets in 2019. Vaughn also ran the 21st most routes (223) in 2019. His receiving numbers are very similar to that of other 2020 NFL draft prospect Cam Akers from Florida State if not better.
Vaughn had higher yards per route run, more routes run overall, more receiving yards, better catch percentage, higher yards per reception, higher yards after the catch, higher yards after the catch per reception, and fewer drops. His overall production profile does compare a lot to Akers and both running backs played behind awful offensive lines in 2019. PFF’s run-block grade for Florida State was 239th; Vanderbilt’s was 257th.
Akers was the better back in 2019 no doubt – but considering Akers is seen as a top-four back in this class Vaungh should not be too far behind him when just looking at their production. Also, if Vaughn had seen the same amount of touches that Akers saw (199 vs 231) he would have rushed for more yardage. I will say that 2018 Vaughn was better than 2019 Akers – albeit the offensive line for Vanderbilt in 2018 was much better ranking 37th by PFF.
Here's a look at some of the explosiveness that Ke'Shawn Vaughn brings to the table. I remember watching this game vs. Baylor and being convinced he was going to declare. 18.7 yds/carry. 243 yds on the day. pic.twitter.com/f0Qiw1j64B
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) March 18, 2020
Best Fit: NFL Scheme
Whereas many have A.J. Dillion being the Derrick Henry back-up, it could be that the Titans target Vaughn as the backup to Henry in 2020. Obviously playing at Vanderbilt, Vaughn is right down the road from the Titans. They reportedly met with Vaughn at the NFL combine. His best fit would be as part of a 1-2 punch with another running back that heavily relies on a run-zone scheme. He is a one-cut runner that makes a single move and hits the hole.
"Derrick Henry…he's kind of wearing down the defense. So you got me as an explosive back, I can come in & capitalize on the defenses being tired here & there. So that would be a good 1-2 punch if it could happen." Ke'Shawn Vaughn to @jwyattsports on how he fits #Titans pic.twitter.com/KKk3hMYcCE
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) March 18, 2020
Pre-NFL Draft Dynasty Thoughts
Two attributes that we want from running backs as they enter the NFL when looking at their college numbers include their college dominator rating and college target market share. Via Playerprofiler.com Vaughn checks off both the boxes here with a 90th percentile dominator rating, a 74th percentile college target share. Another highlight in Vaughn’s profile is that as a true freshman at 18 years old at Illinois he led the team in rushing yards with 723 yards on 157 carries and six touchdowns. This showed his ability to make a true production impact despite his young age.
The trend with Vaughn has basically been that his first year with his two college teams were both excellent. Now in the case of his senior year at Vanderbilt, the team was overall much worse in 2019. They lost quarterback Kyle Shurmur who was a respectable college three-year starting quarterback and holds multiple passing records at Vanderbilt. Their offensive line also ranked very high in 2018 but fell to 251st in 2019. It went from sixth in the SEC to dead last. That ranked even worse than a more well-known terrible offensive line in Florida State. The quarterback play in 2019 was also underwhelming; lead by Riley Neal who threw for just 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns.
With rookie drafts in mind for the long-term, Vaughn does not have many downfalls that would ultimately destroy him at the next level. He profiles as a slightly less-polished and less-explosive version of Cam Akers but showed regardless of what offensive line he plays behind he can make things happen. For the price of a third-round rookie pick, Vaughn seems worth the cheap investment later in rookie drafts. I have seen mock drafts with Vaughn ranging from anywhere to the third to sixth round for him to be taken in the real NFL draft.
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