Rookie Rundown: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Rookie Rundown: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

Fantasy Football Rookie Analysis

Rookie Rundown: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

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Clemson running back Travis Etienne (EE-Tee-En) enters the 2021 NFL Draft as the all-time ACC rushing leader following a four-year career for the Tigers.

During his time with Clemson, Etienne contributed meaningfully all four seasons, winning a national championship in 2018. His most notable accolades: two-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year (2018, 2019), two-time ACC Player of the Year (2018, 2019), and 2020 Consensus All-American. Etienne contributed across the board on offense and as a special teams returner during his time in the program.

Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 215 pounds
40 time: 4.41 seconds

Table: Travis Etienne NCAA stats (2017-20)

Year
School
Class
Gm*
Rushing
Receiving
Total
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Yds
Avg
TD
2017
Clemson
FR
13
107
766
7.2
13
5
57
11.4
0
823
7.3
13
2018
Clemson
SO
15
204
1,658
8.1
24
12
78
6.5
2
1,736
8
26
2019
Clemson
JR
15
207
1,614
7.8
19
37
432
11.7
4
2,046
8.4
23
2020
Clemson
SR
12
168
914
5.4
14
48
588
12.3
2
1,502
7
16
Career
686
4,952
7.2
70
102
1,155
11.3
8
6,107
7.8
7

As a true freshman, Etienne led the Tigers in rushing yards, despite not being the starter. In each of his first three years, no ACC player averaged more yards per carry, and Etienne’s role in the passing game grew every season.

Etienne drew praise for his work in the passing game at his March 11 Clemson Pro Day, via NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks.

“He’s already a three-down running back, but how special could he be in the passing game? When you watched him today, he caught the ball pretty well,” Brooks said on NFL Now. “A little more natural than I thought he looked on tape. I think he comes away with a pretty good workout. He helped himself.”

Pros

  • Explosive, game-breaking ability as a rusher and receiver — 16 touchdowns of at least 44 yards
  • Experience on special teams, primarily as a kickoff returner
  • Three-down weapon capable of fitting most any NFL offensive system
  • Tremendous balance and body control
  • Doesn’t shy away from contact — tougher runner than his frame may suggest
  • Speaking of his frame, he typically played around 207 pounds but bulked up to 215 and still flirted with a sub-4.40 40-yard time at his pro day
  • Impressive combination of quickness in short area and a second gear to get down the field
  • Elite elusiveness, especially in traffic
  • Runs well inside and isn’t always looking to bounce outside
  • Dangerous ability to read and react, making him an ideal fit in a zone-blocking system
  • Patient waiting for blocks to develop before flipping the “go” switch
  • No obvious character flaws — has a reputation as a quiet, hard-worker who leads by example

Cons

  • Needs fine-tuning as a pass protector — definitely a willing blocker and unafraid to stick a linebacker, but his technique needs work
  • Route running needs some attention, and his route tree is quite restricted — mostly caught screens and dump-offs
  • Elite talent around him didn’t hurt … as dangerous if he’s the only guy in town to worry about?
  • Ball security and hands in the passing game could be refined
  • Despite limited touches, it’s fair to question whether his violent running style has shaved time from his NFL career

Fantasy football outlook

Low-volume, high-output productivity means he enters the NFL with limited touches and tremendous results to show for them.

Able to fit any system, Etienne’s NFL stock is dependent upon this is an extremely deep free-agent class among running backs. As the market shakes out over the next couple of weeks, we’ll have a better understanding of where he is most likely to end up.

His talent alone for sure warrants a first-round placement, but the need for the position, and investing such capital into one, works against him.

In April’s draft, Etienne makes sense for several teams looking to get younger and faster. Miami (18th) and New York Jets (23rd) are the best fits later in Round 1 from a three-down role perspective.

Viewing him as a change-of-pace or tandem back, similar to how the New Orleans Saints utilizes Alvin Kamara, opens up his options. While other team needs may prevent Arizona (16th), Jacksonville (25th) and Green Bay (29th) from spending a Round 1 choice on Etienne, don’t completely write them off just yet.

A more realistic scenario has him drafted in the early second round, where Jacksonville (33rd), the Jets (34th), Atlanta (35th) and Miami (36th) make far more sense.

Regardless of where he ends up, there’s a high probability fantasy footballers have a weekly lineup fixture available in Etienne. His big-play ability will endure him to a coach’s game plan for double-digit touches almost every game.

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