Analyzing the Cowboys 2023 draft class and their possible roles
6th Round (212th) Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State ADP: 184th (+28)
The Dallas Cowboys have been at the center of the largest positional controversy over the past few years. Their selection of Ezekiel Elliott 4th overall at the 2016 NFL Draft, followed by a whopping six-year $90 million contract extension and a failure to live up to it, frustrated owner Jerry Jones and Cowboys fans.
The forever Cowboy was released this offseason largely due to the team's confidence in Tony Pollard, but now they needed to groom the next man up. Pollard is playing on a one-year franchise tag, so the Cowboys needed someone who could step in a bit this year and possibly start as early as next year.
In what has got to be one of the best draft stories, Cowboys assistant director of college scouting Chris Vaughn got the phone to make the draft call. That was to his son, Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn. The reaction and the tears of joy on Chris' face made you choke up a bit.
What's also amazing is the play and potential of Deuce himself. His production, tape, and athleticism are great, but some scouts were concerned with his small frame. Some NFL teams completely ruled him out due to his five-foot-five-inch stature, but the Cowboys used that to their advantage, drafting him late.
This is a guy that has shown what it means to be a dominant versatile player, being one of five players in the FBS since 1996 to have 3,600 rushing and 1,200 receiving yards. He combined for 1872 total yards and 22 touchdowns in 2021 and 1936 total yards and 12 total touchdowns in 2022. Amazing production from the back.
PLUS: If you put on his tape, you will see a star. His small frame allows him to slip through little gaps between defenders, which he often creates with his quick feet. Vaughn thoroughly understands defenders' body positioning and attacking angles, manipulating them to juke or spin past them.
His field vision is great, noticing the gaps his linemen give him and where the defence collapses. If his side is cut off, the quick agility is enough to turn to the opposite side and break free. I'm sure head coach Mike McCarthy loves his catching ability, which he has shown when running routes out of the backfield and the slot.
MINUS: There's not much to not like the guy other than his size and strength. Vaughn is not going to be the goal-line back or pass-protection guy. He also isn't going to win contested catches. Any downsides that typically come with being a small player are there but amplified due to how small he is.
I would have loved to see him do more kick and punt return work. He returned seven kickoffs in 2020 for an average of 20.7 yards but hasn't returned anything since. The Cowboys have Kavonte Turpin, but another option would be great for insurance.
ROLE: I can still see the Cowboys staff giving Vaughn a shot at returning because of how good he is in open space. Aside from that, look at him competing to be the change of pace back behind Pollard. He will compete with Rico Dowdle and Malik Davis, which were promising despite limited action.
The ability to impact immediately, high potential and an amazing storyline. This is one of my favourite draft picks, and it will pay dividends down the road. Those unwilling to select him due to the size will be kicking themselves.
PFF had Vaughn mocked at 133rd, while NFL.com's Chad Reuters mocked him at 223rd. At worst, it's a team-fit pick. At best, it's a low-risk, high-potential steal on a gamble others were too scared to take. I like those odds. It's also the only pick Dallas didn't reach for, according to the ADP.