Fantasy Football for Schmucks: Ronald Jones or Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Often times we get excited for the unknown and the upside of a rookie. The hype is real after the Buccaneers spent 3rd round draft capital on Vaughn in the 2020 NFL draft. He is even going ahead of the incumbent starter in dynasty startups and redraft. Will he usurp Ronald Jones of his starting role? Let's dive into the numbers and see what we can find!
Neither of these young men blew away the combine. Let's start with Rojo. He measured 5'11" and weighed in at 205lbs (though it is rumored he is up to 225lbs this offseason). He ran a 4.53 forty which placed him in the 52nd percentile for weight adjusted speed score. He, however, did improve to a 4.48 at his pro day. Rojo also had an average burst score, at the 52nd percentile according to PFF. His vertical jump was a decent 36.5 inches though. He had an impressive 4.1sec 20 yard shuttle which shows he is agile. In college he was a slashing runner with breakaway speed and good lateral movement. Now moving on to Vaughn. The Vanderbilt/ Illinois product underwhelmed at the combine. He stood 5'10" and weighed in at 214lbs. He had a pretty impressive forty time at 4.51 placing him in the 74th percentile for weight adjusted speed score but showed terrible burst. His burst score, per PFF, was in the 23rd percentile with his vertical jump a poor 32 inches. You can see this on film but he makes up for his lack of burst with good vision and contact balance to create decent runs. Overall through the combine testing Rojo showed to be a better more explosive athlete.
Rojo and Vaughn had productive college careers. Ronald Jones was a monster at USC. Rojo hit the ground running as a freshman, coming in and nearly cracking the 1,000 yard rushing mark, missing it by just 13 yards at 987 yards on 153 attempts for 6.5ypc. He even scored 8 rushing TDs and added 1 through the air. He went into his sophomore season with hype and didn't disappoint rattling off 1,082 yards on 177 attempts for 6.1ypc and 12 rushing TDs with 1 receiving TD. In his senior year he was even more productive as USC gave him the rock over and over. They did this to the tune of 261 attempts for 1,550 yards at 5.9ypc and 19 rushing TDs. He was even somewhat productive in the passing game adding 187 yards on 14 receptions with 1 TD. Ronald Jones got better each year and showed he could handle a large workload. In his junior year he missed the 100 yard mark in only 4 of his 13 games! Now we move onto Vaughn who showed well as a freshman but hit a few bumps in the road. Vaughn started his career with Illinois and had a pretty good freshman season. He rushed the ball 157 times for 723 yards, 4.6ypc, 6TD and had 16 receptions for 119 yards. You would think this would get him a larger workload but he disappointed in his sophomore year. He had a career low 60 attempts turning them into 301 yards at 5ypc and 3TDs with 13 receptions for 89 yards. Following this season he decided to transfer to Vanderbilt and sit out, per NCAA rules, the 2017 season. When he came back for his junior year he had a very impressive season in the SEC. Vaughn torched defenses for 1,244 yards on 157 carries for an outstanding 7.9ypc and 12 rushing TDs. He added 13 receptions for 170 yards and 2 TDs. Instead of declaring for the draft he decided to carry this momentum over into his senior year. This, despite what the end of season numbers say, didn't truly happen though. Vaughn rushed the ball 198 times for 1,028 yards, 5.2ypc, and 9 rushing TDs adding 270 yards on 28 receptions with 1 TD. The numbers look great on paper until you check the box scores. Vaughn failed to reach 100 rushing yards in all but four of his games (the complete inverse of Rojo). The games he did reach it in were against bad defenses not even in the SEC, excluding the one game against LSU. The LSU game was a product of the Tigers playing soft as they led comfortably throughout the game, cruising to a 66-38 win (Geaux Tigers). The other three teams were Northern Illinois, UNLV, and East Tennesee State. Both players had really great careers but Rojo was far more consistent.
To this point we have been comparing these two, but clearly now we will be talking solely about Ronald Jones. Rojo came in as a very hyped 2nd round pick in 2018 and had an absolutely abysmal season. I won't even waste much time on it seeing as he had 1.9ypc throughout this season. He put in the work and had a slight breakout in 2019 though! Jones had 172 carries for 724 yards, 4.2ypc, and 6TDs. He added on 31 receptions for 309 yards and did all of this while playing just 36 percent of the snaps on the season! If he retains the starting job or lead back role in a committee with Vaughn he could do some real damage in 2020.
Fantasy Impact and Opportunity
With Peyton Barber gone there is room for both of these backs to have relevance. Weirdly enough in dynasty startups Vaughn is being drafted 80th overall 22 spots ahead of Rojo at 102nd overall according to DLF. Even in redraft on ESPN in a PPR format Vaughn's ADP is 67 and Jones is at 68. One reason for this is Brady joining the team and people assuming that Vaughn is a better pass catcher. Here is a fun stat for you! Ronald Jones has a higher catch rate in the NFL than Vaughn did in college AND has more yards per reception! You can thank my good friend @FFBallAllDay for this little gem. With a shortened offseason program and no preseason it may be wise to go with the guy who has been in the system already.
After going through their athletic and production profile I favor Rojo heavily in redraft and also give him the nod in dynasty. His draft capital is higher and he seems to be the more explosive of the two. I do not think that he will be a true workhorse, but I do believe he will get the majority of the work. If he gets any uptick in snaps his numbers should see a huge increase and he could be a value in drafts going so late (even behind his backup). Vaughn will get carries
as well so he is a decent target in rookie drafts, as he should slot in right behind Rojo, but I see him more as a handcuff with a little standalone value. With the amount of Vaughn truthers you may be able to sell him for a pretty decent return as well! Maybe even a straight up trade for Jones! However, I would avoid him completely in redraft.