In a little over three months, the Dallas Cowboys will finalize their 53-man roster for the start of the 2023 regular season. Two guys who may be in for a dogfight are wide receiver KaVontae Turpin and running back Deuce Vaughn. Despite playing different positions on offense, there may be only room for one of them on this year’s team.
Turpin was a free agent addition last year following his MVP performance in the USFL’s first season. He cemented a roster spot after dazzling in the preseason with his kick and punt returns. While not putting on the same fireworks show that he did last August, Turpin still had strong averages as the return specialist with 24.2 yards on kickoffs and 10.4 yards on punts. He only appeared on five percent of Dallas’ total offensive snaps, getting a handful of touches with no big plays.
Deuce Vaughn joins the Cowboys as a sixth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s already getting a lot of attention; a feel-good story as the son of a Cowboys scout and set to be featured in an upcoming documentary. Despite being a late-round pick, Vaughn’s offensive versatility could help him find a role on a changing RB depth chart.
So why are we linking Turpin and Vaughn? It’s not because they’re the two shortest guys on the current roster; that’s just a fun coincidence. But based on all of the needs at RB and WR positions, plus special teams, it’s quite possible that they’re fighting for the same spot after cut day.
At running back, we know Tony Pollard will be the starter and at least one of Ronald Jones, Maliks Davis, or Rico Dowdle will be behind him as the primary backup. We could even see another veteran added between now and training camp. Vaughn doesn’t have the body or the game for a heavy workload and would be your third RB at best.
At receiver, you’re set up top with CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Gallup. Jalent Tolbert and Simi Fehoko remain hopeful contributors as young talents, plus there are intriguing dark-horse prospects like Dennis Houston, Antonio Callaway, and seventh-round rookie Jalen Brooks.
Given his rare sighting on offense last year, Turpin emerging as a real factor on this year’s WR depth chart is hard to imagine. Maybe Mike McCarthy will do a better job of finding reps for him than Kellen Moore did, but that’s a “believe it when we see it” situation,
That leaves special teams as the clear road to the roster for both Turpin and Vaughn. But despite his athleticism, Vaughn actually hasn’t handled return duties since his freshman year at Kansas State. That role was taken off his plate when he became a bigger part of the Wildcats’ offense in 2021.
That would certainly seem to give Turpin an edge. He’s already proven he can produce on the professional level and always feels just one cut away from a house call. Vaughn will have to be pretty spectacular over the next few months to steal that job away.
It’s not just about the return job, of course. It’s about overall value; can Vaughn be valuable enough on offense that it makes up for perhaps not being as dynamic as Turpin on special teams? That’s the battle he’s up against.
Could both guys make it? Sure, it’s possible. But the harsh reality of having just 53 roster spots is that you can only afford a couple of specialists and gadget guys in any year. With Dallas already re-signing a pure special teams ace in C.J. Goodwin, there just aren’t many wild card spots left.
Finding the right mix of offensive utility and return duties will be critical for both KaVontae Turpin and Deuce Vaughn to make the team this year. Both may even deserve a spot come decision time, but it feels like the Cowboys will have to choose between them when they finalize their 2023 roster.