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2023 Cowboys scouting report: Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn

A small player who can have a big impact for the Cowboys.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Kansas State Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

A continuing series of scouting reports for potential Cowboys draft picks.

Name: Deuce Vaughn
Position: RB
Height: 5’5”
Weight: 179 pounds

Deuce Vaughn Career Stats, courtesy of Sports Reference

Combine Results: 35.5” vertical, 9’8” broad, 17 bench press reps

Few running backs have piled up as many stats as Deuce Vaughn over the last two years. After being part of a running back committee as a freshman at Kansas State, Vaughn earned the bell-cow role in 2021. Over the next two years, he totaled 2,962 rushing yards, 846 receiving yards, and 34 total touchdowns.

So why isn’t Vaughn talked about as one of the top running backs in this draft? Well, he’s 5’5” and weighs right around 180 pounds. The list of running backs with that size that last in the NFL is, like Vaughn, pretty short. It’s why Vaughn, an Arkansas native, was only a three-star prospect coming out of Cedar Ridge High School in Texas. That didn’t stop him from having an illustrious college career against Power 5 opponents, and some believe Vaughn could be an exception in the NFL as well.

One thing is clear: Vaughn has been ready for this for a long time. His father, Chris Vaughn, was a college coach at the likes of Arkansas, Ole Miss, Memphis, and Texas. He currently works for the Cowboys as their Assistant Director of College Scouting, serving as Will McClay’s right hand man. That alone is enough for Deuce to become a logical draft target in Dallas, but it’s not the only reason Dallas will have interest in the diminutive playmaker.

Burst: Vaughn gets from 0-60 with lightning quickness. For his size, he doesn’t have the ability to work in long strides, and he makes up for this by exploding upfield once the ball is in his hands. He also has great long speed, which has helped him knock several home run plays in his time at Kansas State.

Balance: Vaughn naturally plays low to the ground, which is a double-edged sword for him. He leans into his size mismatch, often managing to elude defenders or force poor tackling angles because of it. The downside, though, is that it doesn’t take that much to bring him down when defenders do get to him. Still, he forced the 12th most missed tackles among running backs in this year’s class.

Lateral Agility: He is very patient when moving laterally, careful not to overextend while looking for holes. When he does find the hole, he has a violent cut to suddenly get vertical and then explode into it. He’s a demon on zone running plays.

Ball Carrying: Just two fumbles in three years at Kansas State, and never had multiple fumbles in a season. Vaughn has a tight grip on the ball and doesn’t expose it to danger very often.

Pass Catching: Vaughn is an electric pass-catching weapon, routinely gashing defenses after the catch. Over his three years with the Wildcats, Vaughn ranked fifth among all backs in receiving yards, third in yards per route run, and second in yards after the catch. Drops were an issue for him early on in his career, but Vaughn seems to have cleaned it up, with just one drop in 2022.

Blocking: This is the area of Vaughn’s game where his size is the biggest negative factor. He’s not lacking in technique or effort, but Vaughn simply isn’t big enough to hold up as a pass blocker. He’s had success as a chip blocker, but that’s about it. Vaughn’s best contribution in pass protection is serving as a checkdown option in the passing game.

Athleticism: Vaughn possesses elite athletic traits, which are abundantly clear when working in the open field. If he finds an opening to run through, he’s ripping off a big run nine times out of ten. Vaughn also does a surprisingly good job of converting speed to power when necessary; he doesn’t settle for just outrunning opponents, but can get dirty and physical when the situation calls for it. He won’t be confused for a battering ram, but Vaughn’s athleticism opens doors for a variety of uses.

Processing: He is a heady player in all facets of the game. As a runner, he’s got great vision to see where he needs to go and then let his athleticism take over. When running routes, Vaughn displays an ability to fake out defenders on par with receivers who practice route running all the time.

Intangibles: Vaughn grew up the son of a coach who is now part of an NFL front office, and that background has clearly shaped him into the player he is today. Still, Vaughn’s size is hard to get over. History tells us he won’t last long in the NFL, but history also said he wouldn’t produce the way he did in college. He should be able to provide an NFL team with lots of explosiveness as part of a running back rotation. Some teams will want no part of him just for his size, but the Cowboys will have a unique insight into the man inside the helmet and how he can overcome those limitations.

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