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FAB 1. Bucs Believe Vaughn Was Worth A Third-Round Pick

Of all Tampa Bay’s selections in the 2020 NFL Draft none came with more scrutiny than the team’s third-round pick, Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. It’s not that Vaughn isn’t a good player, but was he a good value in the third round?

NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein had a fourth-round grade on Vaughn and equated him to a backup/special teamer.

Vaughn was the eighth-rated running back by Pro Football Focus and ranked as the 146th best player on the PFF Big Board, carrying a fifth-round projection.

Vaughn was the 13th-rated running back by The Draft Network and ranked as the 156th best player on the TDN Big Board.

Vaughn was selected with the 76th overall pick.

“Sure to be a darling in fantasy football leagues due to his favorable destination with Tom Brady, Vaughn has Brady’s old receiving back Shane Vereen as his closest comparable player,” PFF writes. “The rest of Vaughn’s top comps have had receiving success, but not a dominant workload on the ground.”

Vereen played in the NFL for seven years, including the first four in New England where the Patriots drafted him in the second round in 2011, but he never even rushed for 400 yards in any given season, and wound up with just 1,489 yards and eight touchdowns on 356 carries. Where Vereen excelled was as a third-down back and receiver out of the backfield, catching 221 passes for 1,865 yards and 11 touchdowns.

So did the Bucs just spend a third-round pick on a third-down back? It wouldn’t be the first time.

General manager Jason Licht used the 69th overall pick in 2014 to select running back Charles Sims in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Sims didn’t total more than 400 combined yards in any season other than 2015 when he rushed for a career-high 529 yards and post 561 yards receiving yards on a career-high 51 catches.

Sims totaled eight touchdowns and 2,148 yards in his four-year NFL career. The Bucs didn’t re-sign him after his rookie contract expired and no other team did, either.

The Bucs believe the 5-foot-9, 214-pound Vaughn is more than just a third-down back. He posted 3,296 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns in four years of college football, which started with two seasons at Illinois before he transferred to Vanderbilt. Vaughn burst onto the scene in the Big Ten as a freshman, rushing or 723 yards and six touchdowns, while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He transferred to Vanderbilt for more playing time after his sophomore year where he was limited to 301 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Vaughn had a sensational junior year in his first season with the Commodores, rushing for 1,244 yards and 12 touchdowns, while averaging a gaudy 7.9 yards per carry. Vaughn, who rushed for a career-high 243 yards and two touchdowns in a bowl game against Baylor, also had 13 catches for 170 yards and two scores (13.1 avg.) in 2018 during his junior campaign.

Bucs RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Bucs RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Photo by: Getty Images

As a senior, Vaughn was a marked man as Vanderbilt lost its quarterback and other key offensive weapons to graduation. He rushed for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns as his average dipped to 5.2 yards per carry, and Vaughn caught a career-high 28 passes for 270 yards (9.6 avg.) and one score.

It will be interesting to see if Vaughn is simply a third-down back like Sims or Vereen, or if he can be more than that at the NFL and challenge Ronald Jones II for carries on first and second down, too. The Bucs are inclined to believe he’s the latter – hence the third down pick.

Tampa Bay also believes Vaughn is faster than the 4.51 time he put up at the NFL Scouting Combine, and it’s that speed that will make him more effective than some are expecting at the next level.

“We actually had a little faster time on him from the old hand-timed scout deal,” Bucs director of player personnel John Spytek said. “Not markedly faster, but faster. I think you have to tip your hat to the production he put up in a hard conference. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and that is a pretty good accomplishment in the SEC.”

Vaughn didn’t exactly light it up at the Combine from an athletic standpoint, as the MockDraftable.com spider chart shows above. His only standout trait is the 40-yard dash time that Tampa Bay director of college scouting Mike Biehl said was timed under 4.5 for the team’s scouts.

“We had him timed faster than that, too,” Biehl said. “We were more in the mid- to high-4.4s, but the play speed is more important. At 215 pounds, he does a nice job of carrying that weight and being able to move. He’s a three-down back and he can do a lot of different things for us. He had a really good year two years ago, but dropped off a little bit his senior year. If you look at Vandy’s team last year, they kind of did as a whole, and he was kind of a product of that.”

One game in which Vaughn really produced was against LSU and the stingy Tigers defense. Vaughn impressed by rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns, while averaging 6.5 yards per carry, in addition to catching two passes for 21 yards.

“The game we were drawn to was the LSU game against the eventual national champions,” Biehl said. “Yes, the game was lopsided, but if anyone stood out on Vanderbilt’s team that day it was him. I think you have to appreciate that – both the ability to do it and the mentality to not back down from LSU. He wasn’t there to say, ‘I played against LSU.’ He was there to put up numbers and try to win. I appreciate the competitiveness of that kid.

“It tells you that guys like him will rise to the big games and that they aren’t afraid of the competition and the bright lights. Some guys just fold in those type of games because they can’t handle it. You want to watch a guy’s season as a whole, but when you throw on those games and match-ups and they still continue to raise the level of their play and perform it’s a huge thing. He’s done a nice job. I was actually at that bowl game against Baylor and he played real well. He has a little bit of an edge to him. He’s tough and not afraid to mix it up between the tackles, yet has enough speed and quickness to run outside. He can help us in the passing game, too.”

It’s not just Vaughn’s stats or his measureables that excite the Bucs. It’s his mentality – the edge that Biehl was talking about.

“We got the chance to spend some time with him and the way he’s wired and the gritty competitiveness he has – and I think you might have seen Coach [Derek] Mason reference Richard Sherman when talking about him,” Spytek said. “I’m going to stop short of saying he’s going to become Richard Sherman, but he’s got some of that tough-minded, take-no-prisoners mentality. He’s got an ‘I’m not here to screw around – I’m here to play ball, and if you’re not going to be on board with that then I don’t have a lot of time for your attitude. We thought it meshed well with where we’re trying to head and certainly with the quarterback we added in the offseason. He’s an older kid. He’s mature.”

Vaughn ranked as the 30th best player in getting yards after contact with 743 last year, and he was 27th with missed tackles forced with 55. PewterReport.com’s draft expert and Bucs beat writer Jon Ledyard wasn’t terribly impressed with the Vaughn selection, and stated as much in his article “Vaughn Doesn’t Fix Bucs’ Running Game (And That’s Okay).”

Vaughn was the Bucs’ most controversial and interesting pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. It will be fascinating to see where his ceiling is in the NFL.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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FLBoy84

After Licht infamously saying one of the reasons he drafted Aguayo was because he “liked the way he was wired”, just threw up a little in my mouth hearing Spytek say it. 🙂 To be fair, KV will likely prove less likely to short-circuit than a certain 2nd round kicker, even if both were drafted earlier than needed. If the FO was being completely honest, even they would likely admit that the lack of a 4th round pick basically forced them to overdraft Vaughn in the 3rd, as he surely wasn’t going to be sitting there in the 5th. Even… Read more »

BigSombrero

Tyler Johnson is the Bucs version of Julian Edelman/Wes Welker. He had more slant routes/catches than anyone in the conference. He can also get deep, but it seems he will challenge all Bucs receivers for most catches with Tom Brady at QB.

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Dave

Except for the fact that he’s absolutely nothing like Edelman or Welker. In any way humanly possible. They couldn’t be more opposite if they tried.

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BigSombrero

You mean small and white? Lol.

In the video above, they reference the fact that he is a slant and drag route receiver. He ran more slants than any WR in the conference. This is not debatable Dave.

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BigSombrero

Name the year that Randy Moss had more receptions than Wes Welker as a Patriot. Granted, it was 10 years ago when they played together and Brady’s arm was stronger, but I will await your answer.

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FireLichtMovement

I only come here for the Dave/BS arguments. Thank you both for brightening my day. Carry on lol

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Dave

Oh it ain’t me man. It’s all BS. He Steals the show. I try to just sit back and laugh, but sometimes it’s just so damn hard not to comment lol

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BigSombrero

KShawn Vaughn being compared to Shane Vereen seems like the best comparison I’ve heard so far. We’ll see if he is able to unseat Dare Ogunbawale on the depth chart. I would be surprised if he’s able to put up 300 total yards of offense this year.

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FireLichtMovement

If you like him being compared to Shane Vereen BS, 700 would be an easily attainable number. Vereen was a very good receiving back, while good at running HB draws on 3rd down also. The lowest number of receiving yards his last 3 years in New England was 427.

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FireLichtMovement

I personally like Vaughn as a slightly taller version of another Patriots RB Kevin Faulk. Decent receiving back that can run it also.

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BigSombrero

I just don’t think he will get many opportunities. I think its RoJo, Dare, Vaughn

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FireLichtMovement

Idk man, Dare hasn’t proven a thing in his time with the Bucs while Vaughn has potential, despite being overdrafted a bit. I like Vaughn’s skill set more than Barber’s and Dare’s. Time will tell.

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BigSombrero

Calais practice squad material. Too little. TJ Logan keeps his job.

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Buc stops here

I think people in general did not take into considering where Vaughn was playing – Vanderbilt in the highly competitive SEC. Vanderbilt is usually the doormat and does not have the players to compete in the SEC. They are only in that conference due to tradition, not much else when it comes to football. Vaughn did well his first year because the other teams did not key on him as he was the star of the offense (and they had a decent passing attack). After that year and the QB graduated, things fell apart and the defense could focus on… Read more »

Dave

His 3rd year in college was his best year, not his 1st or 2nd. so I hope they didn’t just go off his first 2 seasons when evaluating him

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danielob

I think it will take awhile for Johnson to be our third wide-out but his upside is interesting. Good production in college doesn’t always translate to success in the NFL but I think this kid has “it”. Of course he could turn out to be another larry Brackens ( kidding), but probably another tool for Brady. Don’t think that Calais will play on offense but that would be interesting to see him run a few sweeps with his speed. BA and company are plotting as we speak.

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DonkeyHunter

It’s a shame we didn’t take the opportunity to draft Jensen’s replacement in Rd. 3.

Nah, blow a premium pick on a RB.

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FireLichtMovement

Cushenberry would have been nice there, or Nick Harris trading up a spot or 2 in the 5th. I was hoping for an interior o lineman selection also, but I can’t complain about the Tyler Johnson pick.

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DT25

I’m actually more excited for the RoJo/Vaughn backfield than most. RoJo is up to 225 lbs and looks legitimately evolved as a route runner and pass catcher this off-season. Vaughn should bring some grit-and-grind (to borrow the Grizzlies old motto) to that 2nd RB job and be able to do the things Barber did a little better, especially when it comes to pass protection and receiving out of the backfield. Overall, Brady’s presence and improved run blocking with Wirfs and Gronk should go a long way in squashing some of the concerns people have about our RB room. Rate this… Read more »

Knightrider79

If you watch that LSU reel on Vaughn. He was in pass protection and blocked the LB coming up the middle. Then when he’ll came he moved off of him and blocked the defender coming off the edge. When the play was over he and the edge defender were in each other’s faces. That’s the kind of plays I like to see. Someone who will block and he won’t back down. I like the pick of Vaughn and tbh I couldn’t care less where he was drafted. There’s plenty of players selected, not just by the Bucs, ahead of where… Read more »

Theerealdiehl

I’ve been a bit critical about Ke’shawn Vaughn and I do think (other than maybe Chapelle Russell) that he was the only reach for the Bucs in this entire draft. But, if we get a solid backup RB (which we didn’t have before the draft on this roster) for the next 3-4 years, the pick will probably pay off. I liked Zack Moss’s game a lot better, but I’ve kind of also got a laid back vibe from him based on film (take that for what it’s worth – not much LOL). I trust the Bucs brass to vet Vaughn’s… Read more »

BigSombrero

I actually think WR Tyler Johnson has the chance to be the best rookie in the class. I would be shocked if a single rookie is starting week 1 vs New Orleans. Im sure I will get lots of down votes because you guys are super hot for the pool jumper, the oft-injured shrimp safety, the slow short RB with 8″ hands, and the tiny speedy fragile RB. I welcome all comparisons to Warrick Dunn’s size not limiting him and all OTs drafted in round 1 being HOF candidates. It’s a bucs life. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

Makski13

That’s not why you get all the thumbs down, it’s your delivery. Instead of saying you you would be shocked to see a single rookie start, you should say you’re not sure how many will start. Then explain why you think that maybe there are issues with all of them that would prevent them from starting. But you should acknowledge that a first round OT that was rated as one of the top 4 in the draft, that plays RT, which is our biggest need, will probably start wether he is ready or not. He was drafted to start. So,… Read more »

surferdudes

I have to believe if Vaughn put up back to back 1000 yard seasons on one of the worst teams in the SEC, he’ll be a capable NFL back. Look at him as a huge upgrade over Barber. Vaughn has break away speed. I love his North, South running style. His highlights showed how deadly he is in the screen game. I would’ve rather picked a back like Dobbins in the second, but if Winfield can solidify our secondary I’m more then happy with Vaughn in the third.

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BigSombrero

He did have over a 100 yards against LSU, but a big chunk came when the game was out of hand and LSU was happy to play prevent defense. Im not saying all his yards were garbage time yards, just that its a factor.

He has small hands and it will interesting to see if he can run good routes and make the catch, pass protect, and not fumble against NFL defenders.

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BigSombrero

On Winfield, the only thing that concerns me are his size, injury history, and inexperience against high flying passing attacks. The Bucs seem to be drawn to secondary players that have asterisks and try to disprove those asterisks. It has yet to work out at the safety spot.

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Knightrider79

So is there a move that the Bucs ever do that you’re high on? Do you complain just to hear yourself complain? Or are you truly never happy?

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BigSombrero

Sure I do Knightrider79. I liked Vita Vea over Derwin James. I liked the db class last year. I liked Josh Allen 1a, D. White 1b last year. I didn’t like DE Spence pick. I didn’t like Brian Price pick in 2010. I never liked McCoy as I thought he was overated.

I can keep going but you get the point. I like who I like and I dislike who I dislike. I share for your enjoyment.

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FireLichtMovement

He has more explosive traits than Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker. His fluidity of movement was really on display in his combine workout. The guy looks like a heat seeking missile coming up to tackle ball carriers and blitzing the QB. On top of all that, he is described as a guy who watches nothing but film and has an immense understanding of route concepts. You can tell his father worked with him a bunch on his tackling ability. Very similar players. Lastly, check out who our old QB and great NFL analyst, Chris Simms, thinks is the best safety… Read more »

CrackerBall

Is that why Big Sombrero gets all the thumbs down? – boy, I was way off.

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BigSombrero

No, you were on target too! I’m an asshole! Keep the thumbs down coming!!

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BigSombrero

It’s cool. I’m not bothered by the thumbs. I prefer to talk football with an edge. I find it more fun. I’m always happy to listen to another persons opinion or disagreement about a player I like or dislike. This is 100% entertainment and not personal for me.

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Dave

Among other reasons makski. And there is little to ZERO chance we don’t have a starter week 1. Ready or not Wirfs is starting. As long as Winfield is healthy and Evans doesn’t make a miraculous recovery, he’ll also be out there week 1. And Vaughn, though he technically won’t be listed as the starter week 1(which is deceiving, because most backfields get plenty of work for both backs) he’ll be listed as the number 2 and will be out there plenty

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FireLichtMovement

So if Jonathan Taylor got drafted at 41, do you still think the Bucs should have taken him at 14? I have never seen so much hate by one person, on one draft class. I didn’t like the pick of Devin White last year, or the Vita Vea pick the year before, but the ensuing picks I thought had some merit, MJ Stewart excluded. Your contention is, the Bucs bombed the entire draft and not one rookie, besides their 5th round pick, will have much or any value their rookie years? I think BS needs a hug and a valium.… Read more »

drdneast

I don’t understand the bad vibes thrown at RoJo although their are many comments tossed out here based on nothing but personal feelings. RoJo put together some pretty solid numbers and runs last year and more than a few were called back due to a penalty. His receiving skills also improved which means he spent time working on this aspect of the game. Hopefully he is still working on that part of the game so he can be an even better asset to the team. He’s not afraid to stick the ball up the middle and run with authority which… Read more »

BigSombrero

RoJo looked good in a video he posted recently. I think the skepticism comes from the fact that he had one 100 yard game and that was the last game of the season. Bucs didn’t salt away wins by running it. Blew big leads vs plenty of teams last year because they couldn’t run at will.

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BigSombrero

It’s simple to me. I watch a few games, watch a few highlights, watch a few breakdowns and form an opinion. I then tell other football fans on the forum my opinion. Mostly respectfully but usually with plenty of zip on it.

I’m not grumpy or miserable in person. No need for drugs or hugs. I just like being a bit incendiary on the topic of football.

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David DeLeon

I like this guy a lot, never too many good receivers. Just sucks for fantasy owners, Tom Brady throws to everybody, some games Evans will have 12 catches some days Tyler Johnson will have 10. But who cares “just win baby win” Al Davis

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Justin Jakel

Let’s see Jamal Williams? Payton Barber II… but who knows, everyone hated Alexander Mattison in the 3rd round for the Vikings last year. Killed it during the regular season.

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Johnny Cannons

With the exception of Johnson – who’d be a shock not to make this team’s final cuts with all of the post-draft hype around him – the Day 3 guys are basically in position battles: Davis vs. Ledbetter/Nunez-Roches/possible FA (still don’t have a replacement for Beau Allen); Calais vs. Logan/Ogunbowale (and given the latter’s versatility on special teams, he probably has the edge), Russell vs. Cichy/Dawkins (and the former two have serious injury histories). It’s nice to be looking for depth rather than hoping for a diamond in the rough. This seems to be an extremely solid draft on paper;… Read more »