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Why Ke’Shawn Vaughn Will Be A Top-20 RB In 2020

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
May 13, 2020

Throughout the offseason, Kyle Yates will be highlighting several marquee fantasy players as he walks through his projection process. These projections are subject to change based on injuries, signings above/below them on the depth chart, new information regarding scheme or player usage, etc. They’ll serve as a way to give a “peek behind the curtain” into Kyle’s projections thought process and whether or not a player will be a fantasy value in 2020.

In this article, we look at how Ke’Shawn Vaughn is well-positioned to finish as a top-20 RB in 2020.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn

Has there been a team that has experienced more of a makeover this offseason than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

After seeing Jameis Winston throw 30 interceptions last season, the Bucs decided to let him walk in free agency and go after the greatest QB to ever play the sport, Tom Brady. With Brady at the helm now (pun intended), the Bucs have also seen Rob Gronkowski come out of retirement to join their loaded receiving corps and they drafted two excellent offensive pieces in the draft. Tristan Wirfs was an excellent selection at No. 13 overall to help protect Brady and the Bucs continued to add even more offensive firepower with the dynamic rookie out of Vanderbilt, Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

Vaughn was, unfortunately, on a terrible offense last year, but he stood out on film every single game that I watched. He displayed great top-end speed when he found the open field, he’s a good and natural pass catcher out of the backfield, and he’s a top-notch pass protector.

As we look at Vaughn’s situation and his NFL landing spot, Ronald Jones is the biggest hurdle for him to see significant touches in this offense. With that being said, one of the biggest knocks on Jones is his deficiencies in the receiving game and in pass-blocking, which are two areas that Vaughn succeeds in.

According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times, head coach Bruce Arians was quoted in December of last year saying,

“He [Jones] works his ass off, and he’s going to get better at it [pass catching and blocking],” Arians said. “But we need him running the football. But you can’t run the football if you can’t protect the quarterback.”

Pass blocking as a RB is an incredibly important trait for Arians and we saw Jones ride the bench several times last year after missing blitz pickups. With Brady behind center now, pass protection becomes even more important. We’ve seen Brady time and time again not be afraid to call out teammates when they make a mistake, which mean that Brady loses faith in Jones quickly if he misses in pass-protection routinely.

If that were to happen, it paves a path for Vaughn to be on the field more, which is the first step to fantasy relevance. You can’t score fantasy points if you’re not on the field, in my experience…

What could Vaughn (who was hand-selected by this new coaching regime) do in his first season in Tampa Bay? It all comes down to the workload he could be walking into…

Projections

Just like with any other team, we have to start with their projected total plays and the passing-to-rushing percentages.

In 2019, the Buccaneers threw the ball an exorbitant 630 times, while just breaking the 400-rushing attempts barrier. A large part of this was due to the Bucs continuously having to air it out due to Winston’s turnovers, which that number will plummet with Brady under center.

For 2020, I’m projecting the Bucs to run a total of 1015 plays with a 41/59 rushing-to-passing split. This is a slight uptick from their 39% rushing percentage in 2019 and a slight downgrade from their 61% passing percentage, which gives us 420 rushing attempts to work with in projections for the Bucs backfield.

Currently, the Bucs backfield contains the following players:

Ogunbowale only saw 11 carries on the ground all last season, so he’s essentially relegated to a pass-catching only role in this offense. However, he had that role last year due to Peyton Barber and Jones’ deficiencies in the receiving game. With Vaughn in the mix now, it’s hard to project Ogunbowale with any sort of established role in this backfield. Meanwhile, Calais prevents no real threat for touches in 2020 as a 7th round pick.

This leaves Jones and Vaughn as the main options for touches at the RB position. Based upon this logic, and the likelihood that Jones comes off the field in obvious passing situations for Vaughn, it’s not unrealistic to see the backfield play out with these carry percentages:

  • Jones: 40% (168 attempts)
  • Vaughn: 50% (210 attempts)
  • Ogunbowale: 5% (21 attempts)
  • Brady: 5% (21 attempts)

Vaughn is unlikely to receive the lion’s share of the workload this season. There’s even a possibility that Jones starts out the season as the predominant ball-carrier, but unless Jones makes drastic strides as a pass-protector, Arians may force him to the bench sooner rather than later. Jones will be able to continue to lean on his developing strengths as a runner between the tackles, while Vaughn can take over the primary pass-catching and pass-blocking duties.

As for the receiving game, we know that both Arians and Brady love to utilize their backs out of the backfield. Currently, I have Vaughn projected for a 9% target share, with Jones receiving 5% and Ogunbowale receiving 3%. That target share of the overall passing attempts is good enough to see Vaughn end the season with 54 targets. That’s a healthy dose of targets in the receiving game for a rookie RB, but Vaughn has shown the ability to succeed in that category from his college tape.

Fantasy Outlook

This is going to be a high-powered and dynamic offense in Tampa Bay with Brady now in town. There’s going to be plenty enough work for Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Gronkowski, Jones, and Vaughn to all be fantasy relevant. If Vaughn shows enough to begin the year, there’s a possibility that Arians chooses to rely on one back primarily (which he’s done throughout his NFL coaching career) and Vaughn could finish even higher than where I’m projecting him.

We’ll need to monitor training camp reports to see if Jones has made any strides in the receiving and pass-blocking game, which would require adjusting projections if he has, but every indication right now is that Vaughn could be the lead back in this committee. If he is, he’s going to finish much higher than where his current ADP is and he’s a screaming value in both Dynasty and redraft leagues currently.

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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