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Rumblings Scouting Report: Wake Forest S Chip Vaughn

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Wake Forest SS Chip Vaughn (Getty)

As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, the editorial staff at Buffalo Rumblings will begin profiling draft prospects that may end up being potential targets of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills don't necessarily need a safety, but they do need a playmaker defensively - and they'll take on wherever they can get one.  Profiled here is Wake Forest SS Chip Vaughn.

The Buffalo Bills entered the 2009 off-season with two big needs: an offensive playmaker and a defensive playmaker.  Their offensive playmaker is now on the roster after the signing of WR Terrell Owens.  Defensively, however, the Bills are still lacking that impact player; now, with the Jason Peters situation possibly dictating that the team focus on its offensive line early and often in the draft, the Bills may be forced to pass on some of the draft's better defensive playmakers.  If that ends up being the case, backup plans will need to be executed.  If the Bills are looking for a defensive playmaker from the third round on, Wake Forest SS Chip Vaughn might be the type of player they target.

Who is Chip Vaughn?  A far better person to answer that question is Ryan Philpott, one of a team of bloggers over at Demon Deacons blog Blogger So Dear.  Our full scouting report on Vaughn begins below, and it's continued - with a highlight film and Philpott's input - after the jump.

Chip Vaughn - Strong Safety, Wake Forest
6'1", 221 pounds, 4.51-second 40 yard dash

Strengths: Outstanding tackler... Big, physical player that absolutely looks the part... Excellent run defender... Almost looks like a linebacker at times and has terrific range... Active in coverage... Smart player, good instincts and great leadership skills... Played both safety positions in college, but is far better suited to in-the-box work in the NFL.

Weaknesses: Technically unsound - sloppy backpedal and turn-and-run, poor footwork... Lacks the fluid hips and straight-line speed to match up with slot receivers in coverage... Ball skills leave a lot to be desired.

NFL comparison: Rodney Harrison, New England Patriots
Vaughn is cut out of the same cloth as Harrison - they are both violent run defenders that can make game-altering big hits.  Harrison gets a bad rap because of his over-violent hitting (he's often called the "dirtiest player in the league"), but the fact of the matter is that he's a heck of a safety.  In his heyday, Harrison could get you four to six interceptions a year; Vaughn compares more to modern day Harrison, who is instinctual in coverage but needs to be protected by zone schemes in most situations.  Vaughn would bring attitude, toughness and leadership to Buffalo's defense - but he's not quite the playmaker the team sorely needs.

Much more on Vaughn after the jump.

Here's our three-question interview with Ryan Philpott in its entirety:

BR: Vaughn earned a lot of playing time defensively in his first two seasons at Wake Forest, even though he wasn't a starter until his junior year.  How was he utilized then in terms of coverage vs run, run downs vs pass downs, where he was lined up, etc., if you recall?

BSD: As far as I recall, early in his career Chip was never used in one specific fashion. That is to say he wasn't brought in solely to defend the run. Early on he made an impact against the pass and the run, but he was behind two very good safeties, Josh Gattis and Patrick Ghee, limiting his opportunities to see the field.

BR: It's pretty well known that Vaughn's a great run defender.  How was he in coverage, though?  Did Wake put him in more zone looks, or was he matched up with tight ends/receivers on occasion as well?  Was he better at either?

BSD: Vaughn definitely has superior tackling skills and closing speed which helps him tremendously against the run. He was rarely matched up one on one and was traditionally used in a deep zone. I think he had a really good feel for where to be and followed plays well, which allowed him to rack up tackles his junior and senior year.

BR: You've mentioned that Vaughn is your favorite player in recent seasons.  What about him was endearing?  How do you think he'd fit into a city like Buffalo?

BSD: Vaughn brought a confidence and swagger that I loved to see out there, as well as an extremely hard hitting game. There are two instances that make Vaughn stick out in my mind. The first came his sophomore year, against Duke, with Wake about to lose on a last second chippie field goal. Chip jumped what seemed to be three feet to block the kick, one of the most important plays of Wake Forest's ACC championship year. The second, is after Wake beat Florida State at home, Chip Vaughn took off his pads to reveal a Florida State "Unconquered" shirt, with the "Un" blacked out.

There is little doubt in my mind Chip will be able to fit in wherever he goes. A very good player and a good guy, Buffalo will be very happy if they pick him up.

Does Vaughn "Fit the Bill"?
Yes and no.  Yes in the sense that he absolutely could carve out a niche role on this team immediately, and yes in the sense that he embodies a lot of what Buffalo's talent evaluators value in prospects - attitude, determination, work ethic and intelligence.  Vaughn has the talent to start for a long time in this league - but he's got some work to do to get there.  In the meantime, he can absolutely be considered a run-down safety and a special teams demon.

However, if the Bills are looking for an instant jolt to the playmaking aspect of their defense, Vaughn probably isn't their guy.  Though he recorded 20 pass break-ups in his two seasons as a starting safety in the ACC, he only intercepted three passes.  He is not an impact cover man, and likely never will be - though that does not make him a liability by any means, particularly in a zone-based defense.  The attitude he'd bring to the Bills' often laid-back defensive unit would definitely be a step in the right direction.  But Vaughn is a hole-plugger, not a defensive centerpiece - and he'd only be a valuable addition at a certain point in the draft (again, in the third round or later).