Travis Etienne 2021 Fantasy & Dynasty Outlook with Jaguars
Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: RB Travis Etienne
Travis Etienne Fantasy Profile
Travis Etienne Fantasy Fit with Jaguars
Before we proceed, I’d like to take a moment of silence to honor the fantasy departed.
R.I.P. James Robinson
"He lived well but short."
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) April 30, 2021
Now then, Etienne.
It’s hard to know what to make of the offensive system in which he finds himself, but what’s known is that he’s in line to be the lead back if not a three-down back as a rookie.
James Robinson was great last year, but he was an undrafted rookie, and the new regime had no connection to him at all. The coaching staff looked at Robinson, wanted to upgrade the position and then spent a first-round pick to do it.
The combination of his talent and draft capital all but guarantees that Etienne will be used regularly and heavily, and his three-down skill set gives him a high weekly fantasy floor even if the Jaguars struggle on offense.
Etienne will be an attractive upside RB2 in best ball and redraft in 2021, and in dynasty rookie drafts he will be a top-three pick worthy of No. 1 overall consideration.
Dynasty Fantasy Analysis
Note: The following was written before the 2021 NFL Draft.
In my way-too-early dynasty rookie rankings, I had Etienne as my No. 1 player. In the subsequent weeks, not much has changed.
In superflex leagues, a quarterback should be taken at the top of the board. And in the tight end premium format, where tight ends get 1.5 points per reception (PPR), there is a very real case to be made for Florida tight end Kyle Pitts as the No. 1 overall pick. In fact, even in standard and PPR leagues, Pitts makes for a compelling choice because he is truly a one-of-a-kind prospect, but I must admit that taking Pitts No. 1 would be a rather contrarian move.
Etienne, however, makes a lot of sense at No. 1, especially for teams in need of an upgrade at running back — and, in reality, that’s most dynasty teams.
If you want to go with a wide receiver at No. 1, I won’t try to stop you — wide receivers are longer-lived assets compared to running backs. And in many leagues, the starting lineups call for more receivers than backs, so it’s usually sharp to prioritize them in rookie drafts.
Ja’Marr Chase is the guy if you choose to go with a wide receiver at No. 1. I don’t think there’s much debating that. But if you opt to go with a running back, there’s some debate: Etienne or Harris.
I like Harris: He should be an immediate fantasy starter as a rookie. He is big, can catch the ball and has a good chance to be selected on Day 1.
Etienne, though, is still my preferred choice as the top back in rookie drafts, at least right now, before we know where they land.
Harris I expect to go ahead of Etienne in the NFL draft, but they should have comparable draft position. And while Harris is built more like a lead back, Etienne at his pro day showed that he has the size to stand up to the grind of the NFL.
Official verified pro-day measurables on Clemson RB Travis Etienne:
Hand: 9 3/8
Arm: 31 1/8
Wing: 73 1/8
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 11, 2021
And even though Etienne bulked up from 205 to 215 pounds, the extra muscle didn’t seem to impact his athletic testing, as he still managed to blaze a 4.41-second 40-yard dash (or thereabouts).
4.40 unofficial 40-yard dash for Travis Etienne ⚡️@ClemsonFB 𝐏𝐫𝐨 𝐃𝐚𝐲 pic.twitter.com/MRNi2Ckcca
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) March 11, 2021
With his combination of size and speed, Etienne almost certainly has the best athletic profile of any back in this class.
Clemson running back Travis Etienne meets all the requirements when it comes to size, speed and production.
At 215 lbs, Etienne ran an unofficial 4.41 at @ClemsonFB pro day, helping him earn a 99 athleticism score according to the NGS draft model.
🔹 Pro Bowl Probability: 33% pic.twitter.com/ehgrDe7lrK
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 11, 2021
And Etienne isn’t just an athlete: The guy can play football.
As an 18-year-old true freshman, he led Clemson’s backfield committee on the ground with 107 carries, 766 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing while chipping in five receptions for 57 yards in 13 games. And in the three following seasons, he proved himself to be one of the most consistently productive players in college football.
- 2018 (15 games): 204-1,658-24 rushing | 12-78-2 receiving
- 2019 (15 games): 207-1,614-19 rushing | 37-432-4 receiving
- 2020 (12 games): 168-914-14 rushing | 48-588-2 receiving
Even though he played at under 210 pounds at Clemson, no player in college football history has had more games with a touchdown than Etienne.
The main attraction amongst players taking part in Clemson's Pro Day today will be RB Travis Etienne.
He scored a TD in 46 games in his college career, the most in NCAA history.
This dude can absolutely fly too 💨💨 pic.twitter.com/JIi3Q0ClX8
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 11, 2021
Where Etienne really distinguishes himself is in the receiving game. He’s a fine runner, although he is more of a sprinter than a pile mover, and in the NFL his relative lack of power might limit him to a zone-heavy scheme. But as a receiving back, he is unrivaled in this class.
Etienne impressively improved as a receiver each year of college so that by his senior year he was one of the best pass-catching backs in the nation.
In the running back leaderboards in the 2021 Sports Info Solutions Football Rookie Handbook, Etienne stands out as a receiver.
Yards Per Route Run
- Travis Etienne: 1.6
- Michael Carter: 1.2
Receptions Per Game
- Travis Etienne: 4.0
- Demetric Felton: 3.7
Receiving Yards Per Game
- Travis Etienne: 49.0
- Najee Harris: 32.7
As a senior, Etienne led all FBS backs with 588 yards receiving, and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 1 pass-catching back with a 90.9 receiving grade.
With his size and receiving ability (as well as his durability), Etienne looks like a three-down NFL back — at least according to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
"Every time he touches the ball you hold your breath."@ClemsonFB HC Dabo Swinney on the ACC’s all-time leading rusher, @swaggy_t1 🐅 pic.twitter.com/bUcszIIYI7
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) March 11, 2021
Since 2019, Etienne is the only back in college football with 2,500 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving, and as Swinney mentioned, that kind of production puts him in rare company.
Over the past two decades, only two backs from a major conference have hit those thresholds over a two-year span.
- Travis Etienne (2019-20, 27 games): 2,528 rushing | 1,020 receiving
- Saquon Barkley (2016-17, 27 games): 2,767 rushing | 1,034 receiving
Etienne isn’t Barkley as a prospect. Etienne is smaller, slower and older — but his college production is elite.
And Etienne isn’t as old as he could be. If he had entered the NFL last season as a 21-year-old early declarant, I would have absolutely loved him, but he’s still a year younger than Harris — and Etienne’s age is the primary reason I have him ranked No. 1 among all backs.
In dynasty, running backs are extremely short-lived assets, and every year they could play matters. When choosing between two backs who have comparable expected draft position and sufficient size, athleticism and college production to indicate NFL success, I’ll use Occam’s razor and simply opt for the one who is younger — especially if that guy is also the better receiver.
Harris is a fine prospect, but I prefer Etienne just a little bit more. He should be the No. 1 back selected in rookie drafts.
And as much I enjoy indulging the fantasy of taking Pitts No. 1 overall, a strong structural case can be made for Etienne.
This year’s running back class is bad. Very bad. After Etienne and Harris, it’s choppy. Javonte Williams from UNC is an acceptable-ish No. 3 option, but after him, the backfield quality in the class drops off significantly. That means that if you want to get a reliable back in your rookie drafts, you’ll likely need to take him with a pick near the top of the board.
But this class is pleasantly deep at wide receiver and sufficiently deep at tight end. If you take Etienne instead of Chase or Pitts early in Round 1, you can still get an upside receiver you like in Round 2 or a value-imbued tight end in Round 3.
But if you take Chase or Pitts at the top of Round 1, you’ll likely be disappointed with your options if you try to add a running back later in the draft.
For Etienne, what matters when comparing him to Harris is Etienne’s age and receiving ability. What matters when comparing him to Chase and Pitts is positional scarcity.
And this year good rookie running backs will be hard to acquire: If you’re in a position to draft Etienne, it will be hard not to do so.
NFL Prospect Comp: Cam Akers with better draft position and receiving skills but also older
Matthew Freedman is 1,018-828-37 (55.1%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
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