In the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed their most glaring remaining need on the offensive side of the ball when they drafted Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. For the past two seasons, their rushing attack has been mired in mediocrity. Lead duties were set to fall on Ronald Jones with Dare Ogunbowale handling third-down situations. Vaughn's arrival throws a wrench in those plans.
I liked but didn’t love Vaughn entering this draft; however, this is an ideal situation for him. The Bucs have improved their offensive line, and the talent in the passing attack is unrivaled. The team has, of course, added quarterback Tom Brady to pair with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and now Rob Gronkowski. With talent like that, it's going to be tough for defenses to pay a ton of attention to the running backs.
Jones isn’t locked into the starting job. He hasn’t been good enough to earn that privilege. He was barely good enough at anything to step on the field as a rookie and struggled to unseat Barber last year. In 2019, Jones upped his 1.9 yards per carry to 4.2 and scored six touchdowns to go with his 724 rushing yards. He also added 31 receptions for 309 yards. While the numbers are better, vision and blocking continue to be an issue, and the coaches have shown they don’t trust him. They used him because what were the options?
There is now a new option and quite frankly a better option. I expect Vaughn to take on the short-yardage and passing-down duties immediately. He is a punishing runner who will punch defenders in the face over and over. Not only is a better pass-catching option, but he's also a much better blocker, which is brutal for Jones considering Vaughn is a rookie. By this time next year, we will be talking about Vaughn being the clear-cut starter over Jones heading into the 2021 season.
While he’s better than Jones and there is a lot to love about how he plays, he still isn't an elite prospect. Despite possessing decent straight-line speed, Vaughn is not a playmaker. If he gets in space or gets behind the defense, he can take it to the house.
Nonetheless, he isn’t great at making that space on his own. His acceleration is average at best, and his agility is lacking. He’s a one move and smash running back and isn't great rushing outside and turning the corner. While he can break tackles, he doesn’t make a lot of people miss. Don’t expect many 20-plus yard runs, but you can anticipate a guy that can handle a lot of touches and will fall forward for extra yards almost every time you put the ball in his hand. Plus, he could add plenty of PPR value. Catches and touchdowns aren’t a bad combination to have in a fantasy back.
Bucs beat writer Jason Kanno had this take:
The upgrade in the rushing attack should benefit the entire offense. As good as the passing attack should be, the offensive line is still a question mark despite addressing it this offseason, and Tom Brady is almost completely immobile. Adding a tough blocking tight end who can also pound the rock will only help Brady stand upright and get the ball to those playmakers downfield. Vaughn is good news for the entire offense, and the vets will be happy to have him.
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