At the end of the draft on Saturday afternoon, there had been 37 linebackers drafted overall. One of the many unlucky names that went undrafted got some good news on Sunday. Former Stanford linebacker James Vaughters was picked up by the reigning NFC North Champion Green Bay Packers and will now join former teammate Ty Montgomery who was drafted in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. James Vaughters is an interesting player on an interesting team. The Green Bay Packers can score at will with MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers but their defense has not been great the last few years. Besides a few All-Pro linebackers, the Packers linebacker corps is questionable and Vaughters could go from undrafted player to starter. Now before we continue with why Vaughters could start, let’s get into why he went undrafted.
James Vaughters came to Stanford in 2011 as a 4-star recruit from Tucker, Georgia and he was the total package. He had size, speed, and brains. He came to Stanford as the #4 linebacker recruit in the country and even though there was an insane amount of depth already, he had the tools to play right away. For James Vaughters then, immediate playing time was great. When you look back now, he should have redshirted as he not only was a true freshman that played limited and meaningless minutes, he was transitioning to outside linebacker. It’s rare that a player that is so talented actually hurt himself by playing but this is one of the scenarios that cost him on draft weekend 2015.
As 2012 rolled around, the depth was still crowded at linebacker on the farm but that didn’t stop JV from jumping out to a great start. He had 14 tackles in the first 5 games and looked like the high-profile recruit that everyone thought he was. As the season went on, Vaughters started to fade and only had 12 tackles the rest of the season. He wasn’t a lost cause but some concern was starting to get in the minds of Stanford fans.
During Vaughters junior year at Stanford, he started every game but his ability to get the job done and stay healthy hurt him. His stats showed improvement but his ability on the field wasn’t the quality of a former high-recruit. He had shown small sample sizes of brilliance but he looked like your everyday college linebacker.
Now brings me to his senior year where everything negative I had mentioned goes out the window. James Vaughters came into his senior year along with fellow senior AJ Tarpley as the leaders in the middle. Stanford was coming into the season knowing it lost its two best linebackers who were the heart and soul of the defense. James Vaughters was not going to let his senior year ruin his college career. Vaughters was 6th on the team in tackles with 51. He was 3rd in tackles for loss and 2nd in sacks. He had 6 games where he had 5 tackles or more including 9 tackles and 2 sacks against Washington. Vaughters went into the bowl game and played possibly his best game of his Stanford career. He was awarded defensive MVP for his effort in the Foster Farms Bowl.
You could say that I’ve summed up a guy who gets picked up the day after the draft because he has potential but he’s not “NFL quality”. Yes, James Vaughters may not have been drafted and may not have been the best linebacker in the country, his conference, or even on his own team, but he came into his own last year. He had finally put all the pieces together and had he redshirt his freshman year, he would be starting at Stanford and would be playing for draft stock. The Green Bay Packers just picked up a great person on and off the field and if I’m wrong Packers/Stanford fans, you can let me hear about it but I have a feeling James Vaughters will be playing in Santa Clara one more time this October and this time it’s not a low level college bowl game, it’s versus the San Francisco 49ers.