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Chargers 90-in-90: CB Donte Vaughn

The lengthy corner remains an interesting developmental piece.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Rookie Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At a hair under 6’2 and weighing in around 210 pounds, Vaughn offers phenomenal size for a corner and fits the type of physical mold that former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley liked in his corners. With a new staff in place, it’ll be interesting to see if Vaughn is still thought of as highly as a developmental player.

While at Notre Dame, Vaughn’s career didn’t exactly go as he would have preffered. The Memphis-native, after prepping at Whitehaven High School, arguably had his best season as a freshman. That year, he got the chance to play alongside future NFL draft picks Julian Love and Troy Pride Jr.

Vaughn played in 10 games back in 2016 and started four. He finished with 22 total tackles, six pass breakups, and a single interception. After a promising true freshman campaign, it was fairly confusing to see him only accumulate four more starts for the rest of his four-year career.

Last year, to gain some clarity on Vaughn, I reached out to Bryan Driskell, the publisher for Notre Dame’s coverage at IrishBreakdown.com. Here’s what he had to say about the former Irish defender:

“Donte’s career got off to a great start. He was in the same class as Troy Pride and Julian Love, and when they were all freshmen it was Vaughn who played the best. He tied for the team lead in pass break ups despite playing far fewer snaps than Love or Cole Luke. He battled several injuries the next two seasons and got buried a bit on the depth chart in 2017. He played some in 2018 but struggled. he got beat frequently by Pitt and then got beat twice for scores against Clemson, compounding his struggles. As a senior he was much better, when he played. He was inconsistent in the lineup, but when he played he did a good job. He was very good against Virginia Tech’s talented wide receivers corp, and had some very strong moments.”

So injuries were the culprit in this situation that saw Vaughn peak statistically as a freshman. That’s understandable. As well as he played in ‘16, I’m sure it was tough on him to see his career take a nose dive with just one start across the 2017 and 2018 seasons and 19 total tackles to his name through that span.

But as a senior in 2019, Vaughn took advantage of an injury ahead of him and played admirably, especially in the game against Virginia Tech mentioned above by Driskell. He collected three more starts and played in 10 games total, finishing the season with 16 total stops and five pass breakups.

Vaughn would go on to sign with the Chargers as one of the 19 undrafted players inked by the team in 2020.

As a rookie, Vaughn spent the entire season on the practice squad.

Basic Info

Height: 6’2
Weight: 210
College: Notre Dame
Experience: 1
Years with team: 1

Contract Status

In 2021, Vaughn is set to make a base salary of $660,000. He has a dead cap hit of $0. (Spotrac is down, hence the non-direct quote from the site.)

The Good

Vaughn has great size for the cornerback position. I also like to point out his ability to stick around on the practice squad despite being a rotational player for the majority of his college career. There are plenty of multi-year starters who don’t hang around NFL teams early on in their careers so this just points to his potential and work ethic.

The Bad

Vaughn’s lack of college experience is a pretty big red flag. After starting four games as a freshman, for him not to earn a starting job over the next three seasons is quite unusual. It also didn’t help his case that fellow UDFA cornerback John Brannon saw time on the active roster due to injuries while Vaughn did not. That tells us a bit more in regards to just how far down the depth chart he may be.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2021?

The loss of both Casey Hayward and Desmond King opened the doors a bit for younger corners on the team but the Chargers did draft Asante Samuel Jr. in late April to replace at least one of those bodies in the room. Behind the top three of Samuel, Chris Harris Jr., and Michael Davis, you got Tevaughn Cambell, Brandon Facyson, and John Brannon as direct competition to Vaughn’s chances of making the team. As of now, I think Vaughn is destined for another year on the practice squad so he can continue to develop.