Story this week that KeShawn Vaughn didn't show up to offseason workouts in Tampa Bay. They're voluntary, but as anyone who has played sports at any level is aware, all voluntary or optional activities aren't necessarily voluntary or optional. Bruce Arians gave a quote suggesting disappointment, and as anyone who drafted him last year is aware, Vaughn had a disappointing rookie season.
A popular sleeper pick in many drafts last year -- would he be Tom Brady's new version of James White? -- Vaughn could barely get on the field behind Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy. Two of those players were signed only after Vaughn was drafted, so fair to say he didn't impress with his opportunities.
So what about 2021? The Bucs still have those two veteran running backs, and they also added Giovani Bernard. Would be wildly optimistic, it seems, to consider even using a last-round pick on Vaughn, and those with him rostered in dynasty leagues also need to be wondering if he's worth hanging onto.
Vaughn is actually one of three third-round running backs from last year's draft who had very quiet rookie seasons. Darrynton Evans (pictured) battled injury and didn't get on the field much behind Derrick Henry. Lynn Bowden was actually dumped by the Raiders before the season. Will any of these players amount to anything?
I pulled the list of all third-round running backs from the last 20 years who had quiet rookie seasons, which I defined as fewer than 300 total yards. It gave me 26 players, including those three from 2020.
Turns out a career impact is possible. The table shows all of those players' rookie year numbers, and their best fantasy rank over the rest of their career. Brian Westbrook was the star of this group, but there have been three others who went on to have top-15 fantasy seasons, including two who might again be relevant this season (James Conner and Kenyan Drake). About a quarter of those previous 23 third-rounders (six) had a top-25 fantasy season.
|THIRD-ROUND RUNNING BACKS, < 300 YARDS AS ROOKIES|
|2002||91||Brian Westbrook, Phil.||193||86||279||0||1st|
|2017||105||James Conner, Pitt.||144||0||144||0||6th|
|2016||73||Kenyan Drake, Mia.||179||46||225||2||14th|
|2000||81||Rueben Droughns, Det.||0||0||0||0||14th|
|2003||93||Chris Brown, Tenn.||221||61||282||0||20th|
|2003||96||Justin Fargas, Oak.||203||2||205||0||24th|
|2015||94||Ty Montgomery, G.B.||14||136||150||2||33rd|
|2019||70||Darrell Henderson, LAR||147||37||184||0||36th|
|2005||77||Ryan Moats, Phil.||278||7||285||3||50th|
|2005||73||Vernand Morency, Hou.||184||87||271||2||50th|
|2011||96||Alex Green, G.B.||11||6||17||0||53rd|
|2019||87||Damien Harris, N.E.||12||0||12||0||53rd|
|2003||77||Musa Smith, Balt.||31||0||31||2||53rd|
|2007||71||Lorenzo Booker, Mia.||125||0||125||0||65th|
|2000||88||Doug Chapman, Minn.||0||0||0||0||68th|
|2008||69||Jacob Hester, S.D.||95||91||186||2||74th|
|2001||82||Heath Evans, Sea.||11||0||11||0||78th|
|2003||85||B.J. Askew, NYJ||9||0||9||0||86th|
|2007||93||Garrett Wolfe, Chi.||85||117||202||0||92nd|
|2007||90||Tony Hunt, Phil.||16||0||16||1||106th|
|2006||74||Brian Calhoun, Det.||19||20||39||0||125th|
|2014||97||Dri Archer, Pitt.||40||23||63||0||155th|
|2005||101||Maurice Clarett, Den.||0||0||0||0||--|
|2020||93||Darrynton Evans, Tenn.||54||27||81||1||?|
|2020||76||KeShawn Vaughn, T.B.||109||34||143||1||?|
|2020||80||Lynn Bowden, L.V.||32||211||243||0||?|
Bottom line, it's not over for Vaughn, and not for Evans or Bowden either. Tempting as it might be to cut bait, probably best to hang on for another year, or at least through training camp.
But the odds, as they say, are against a significant career impact. There are a lot fewer Brian Westbrooks than there are guys who missed. And not a great sign for Damien Harris or Darrell Henderson, either.