VDT: Can Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn Be the Next Darren Sproles?

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Kansas State at Alabama
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings running back room could be undergoing some big changes during this offseason. Dalvin Cook could be on the chopping block, and Alexander Mattison is set to hit unrestricted free agency. Because of this potential reality, Minnesota could look to the 2023 NFL Draft to find more RB depth.

One player that Minnesota could have their eye on for the later rounds of the draft is Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn, and he is the focus of today’s edition of Vikings Draft Thermometer series, PurplePTSD‘s one-stop shop for all your 2023 NFL Draft needs. Throughout this series, we have examined a number of prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, what exactly their role could be at the NFL level, and most importantly, whether or not they could end up playing their first NFL snaps in a Vikings uniform. 


Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Height: 5′ 5″
  • Weight: 179 pounds
  • Arm: 27 3/4″
  • Hand: 9 1/2″
  • 40: N/A
  • 10-Yard Split: N/A
  • Vertical: 35.5″
  • Broad Jump: 9′ 8″
  • 3-Cone: N/A
  • 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
  • Bench: 17 reps
  • School: Kansas State
  • Games Watched: Missouri (2022), Kansas (2022), TCU (2022), Alabama (2022)

NOTE: Measurements/testing are official from the NFL scouting combine.


NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Kansas State at Alabama
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020: 123 rushes, 642 yards, 7 TDs; 25 receptions, 434 yards, 2 TDs (10 games)
  • 2021: 235 rushes, 1404 yards, 18 TDs; 49 receptions, 468 yards, 4 TDs (13 games)
  • 2022: 293 rushes, 1558 yards, 9 TDs; 42 receptions, 378 yards, 3 TDs (14 games)


NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Texas Christian at Kansas State
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest reason teams should be intrigued by Deuce Vaughn is his ability to create plays in space. This comes primarily from his adept skills as a receiver with a combined 91 receptions, 846 receiving yards, and 7 receiving touchdowns between 2021 and 2022.

Vaughn is a twitchy, explosive athlete, and this makes him an elusive runner and hard to bring down with his lethal ability to move in any direction. He can burn by defenders to pick up major yards after the catch, and there were multiple occasions where Kansas State would even line him up in the slot and have him run routes downfield.

The former Wildcat is a very patient runner as well. He picks his holes with precision, waiting for the perfect moment to burst through the line of scrimmage. Despite being the smallest player in NFL combine history at 5’5, Vaughn is surprisingly willing to get physical as well. He has a knack for falling forward on his runs and is a willing contributor as a blocker due to his sturdy frame.


NCAA Football: Kansas State at Baylor
Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Frankly, the biggest problem with Vaughn that will force him down into Day 3 of the draft is the fact that he will never be a primary option in an NFL backfield.

He’s simply too small to consistently be effective as a runner between the tackles, nor will he be able to hold off many pass rushers as a blocker. This is a limiting factor that cannot be attributed to guys that will go early on in the draft like Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Tyjae Spears.

Vaughn probably won’t be as impactful as a receiver downfield either, due to his size limitations. Many of his receptions will have to be flats or screens as defensive backs will have such a massive physical advantage on him.

NFL Projection

NFL: Combine
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft Round: Early Fourth-Late Fifth
  • Immediate Role: Depth RB/third down receiving back
  • Best-Case Scenario: Darren Sproles
  • Vikings Draft Temperature: 65

The anticipation prior to the 2022 season was that Dalvin Cook would remain effective in a pass-first offense by becoming more of a receiving back like an Alvin Kamara. That didn’t work out nearly as well as many Vikings fans hoped, and a true receiving back remains a need if Minnesota is going to pass the ball as often as they did last season.

That could be where Vaughn comes into play. He should certainly be available in the fourth round, so Minnesota should have no problem finding a pick where they can grab him in the early portions of the third day of the draft.

Darren Sproles truly is the only comp we can have for a sub-5’7″ running back that played his college football at Kansas State. If the Vikings can get that type of play from him, their offense could be elite.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.