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Offseason | 2023

Mick Shots: These Numbers Qualify Family Affair


FRISCO, Texas – Magical moment there Saturday on the final day of the NFL Draft, the Cowboys selecting Deuce Vaughn in the sixth round with the 212th pick, the son of Chris Vaughn, the Cowboys assistant director of college scouting.

But here is what everyone needs to understand. This was not one of those wink-wink, brother-in-law moves, just doing daddy Chris a solid. Deuce Vaughn deserved to be drafted, and probably higher than the 35th pick in the sixth round, a compensatory pick no less.

And Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made of point of that with the secret audio call to Deuce, Kansas State's second all-time leading rusher, making sure to tell him in no uncertain terms, "What I really want to say, you earned every ounce of me being able to make this call."

By all accounts, Deuce was the top-rated player left on the Cowboys draft board and sounds as if he had been there for quite some time. Who knows about other teams, but all we can say is he was the 14th running back taken in the draft, nine picks after Washington selected Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez in the sixth round.

Sometimes being just 5-foot-5, heck, my size, gets in the way.

Now without naming names, one draft guide listed Vaughn the 17th best running back in the draft. Another had him 15th, so all about where he did come off the board among running backs.

But from, a collegiate production in three years at K-State, Deuce didn't take a backseat to any of them. So thought we'd do a little comparison, and let's not dilly-dally around, go right to the top.

Bijan Robinson, Texas, eighth pick in the draft by Atlanta, the back the Cowboys could only dream of selecting with the 26th pick, since there was no more than a snowball's chance in, uh, The Keys, of him lasting that long.

Here are Deuce's three-year career numbers at Kansas State: 651 carries for 3,604 rushing yards, a 5.5-yard average and 34 rushing touchdowns. You might have heard Deuce is also a pretty sure-handed receiver, finishing with 116 catches for 1,280 yards and nine more touchdowns. Add it all together, and yards from scrimmage come to 4,884 on 767 touches and 43 touchdowns, with 5,029 all-purpose yards.

Bijan's numbers at Texas over the same three years and playing in the same Big 12 Conference: 539 carries for 3,410 yards, 6.3 yards a carry and 33 rushing touchdowns. He adds 16 catches for 805 yards and eight touchdowns, for a grand scrimmage yardage total of 4,215 on 599 touches and 41 touchdowns.

See what I mean.

Then this: Deuce totaled 21, 100-yard-game performances. Bijan, 18.

And get this, Deuce put up133 yards against Alabama in this past season's Sugar Bowl. Put up 130 rushing yards beating TCU in the 2022 Big 12 title game, adding another 30 yards receiving, winning the game's MVP award. Oh, and another 146 against LSU and four TDs in the 2021 season Texas Bowl.

Why if Deuce was four inches taller – imagine that length between your thumb and forefinger – with that kind of production, he would have been a first-round pick.

"He was the highest one on the board when we drafted him," head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed. "For a while."

And that is why Jerry Jones remarked, "He legitimately, when we started draft day three days ago, he was sitting higher in his drafting and that's without any emotion. That was with pure evaluation input, I think that's fair to say."

While some might want to say the Cowboys taking _a shot_ at selecting Deuce is "about family," the numbers disagree.

Talent trumps that notion.

Darren Sproles, Lionel "Little Train" James, Dave Meggett, previous short guys with big production in the NFL, make room for Deuce.

  • Undrafted Diamonds? If the rankings for undrafted free agents linked to agreeing to terms with the Cowboys is accurate, their impending haul seems to be pretty impressive so far. North Dakota State fullback Hunter Luepke is ranked second among the running backs. Louisiana Tech defensive back Myles Brooks also is second at his position. Ranking third are Tennessee tight end Princeton Fant, Kansas offensive tackle Earl Bostick Jr. and wide receiver Jalen Moreno-Cropper of Fresno State. And two more guys are ranked sixth at their positions, Mississippi State linebacker Tyrus Wheat and West Florida (Div. II) wide receiver David Durden. Then coming in ninth is Florida A&M edge rusher Isaiah Land, an FCS All-America in 2021 and winner of the Buck Buchanan Award for the top FCS Defensive Player of the Year – former teammate at FAMU of Cowboys safety Marquese Bell.
  • Kicking It Around: Three kickers were drafted, two of those the Cowboys were interested in, but not for as high as they were drafted. Michigan's Jake Moody went in the third round to San Francisco, with veteran Robbie Gould moving on. Maryland's Chad Ryland goes to New England in the fourth. The Cowboys might have considered one of those two like around the sixth round. That's where Auburn's Anders Carlson went to Green Bay in the sixth. So that is a position the Cowboys must scan the free-agent wire that now includes the likes of Gould, Ryan Succop and, oh, a couple familiar names, Kai Forbath and, uh, Brett Maher. But remember, signing a kicker is not all about making place kicks. Consistency and placements on kickoffs is an important factor, too. Jerry Jones did say, after quipping about "yips," in reference to Maher's late season fade, "We'll be looking at more of a veteran kicker," though quite non-committal if those eyes will ever revert back to Maher.
  • Gang All Here: With offseason strength and conditioning program already in full swing, the sessions ramped up this week to include football activity, too, with coaches allowed on the field for the first time. And of course, these workouts are voluntary, but there sure have been a lot of "volunteers" attending the previous two days. But then, with the team drafting eight players and planning on signing maybe as many as 20 undrafted rookie free agents, sure would be a wise choice to "volunteer," knowing there is competition on the way.
  • Draft Tidbits: Remember at the tight end position, the Cowboys were looking to improve the blocking situation there, and it appears second-round pick Luke Schoonmaker should be able to lend a helping hand, and at least become a better blocker than Dalton Schultz, the Cowboys 2022 franchised player who signed basically a one-year deal worth $6.25 million with Houston, but only charges $2.84 million against the cap since there are three voidable years to spread out his $4.5 million signing bonus . . . As for third-round pick DeMarvion Overshown, this was not an oh-well pick, the Cowboys definitely targeting him, head coach Mike McCarthy saying, "This is an excellent pick for us, it's a great fit, we were holding our breath to make sure he stayed up there." . . . Did you realize Vaughn is only the third Cowboys draft choice coming from Kansas State, OT Ron Barlow in the 20th round of the 1965 draft (didn't make to team) and CB Terence Newman in the first round of 2003, selected to two Pro Bowls in his nine seasons with the Cowboys.

Amazing the reach of the Dallas Cowboys in this country, somehow developing fans all across the nation, and that certainly was the case with the family of first-round draft choice Mazi Smith, who grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was asked about the influence his grandparents had on him growing up, and know that his grandpa (Carl) and grandma (June) were active in the fight for civil rights in Grand Rapids area, and actually started their own newspaper called "The Organizer."

"I grew up with my mom," Mazi said of Kenya Smith. "My grandpa was like my dad because I didn't grow up with a dad. My grandma was like my second mother. I just wish they were here right now. My grandma, her favorite team was the Cowboys. She loved her some (Roger) Staubach.

"My nana loved the Cowboys. I just wish she was here so she could see, but she's watching."

And since this is a family affair, don't miss our Hailey Sutton's interview with Kenya Smith on's Draft Central section, when asked how proud she was of Mazi, saying, "I'm extremely proud of him. I only have one child and he knocked it out of the park."

All pretty sweet final words for this week.

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