2021 NFL Draft Report: Travis Etienne
2021 NFL Scouting Report: Travis Etienne RB Clemson
22 years old DOB 1/26/99
5’10” 210 lbs
Travis Etienne is in a tier with Alabama RB Najee Harris as the clear top backs in the 2021 rookie class. If you watch the tape on both of them you can make a case that either should be first off the board. They are close enough that I am not deciding who my dynasty 1.01 is until I find out what NFL teams they land with. We will be posting a report on Harris before the draft but let's break down Etienne here.
Etienne has put up some gaudy stats at Clemson since his freshman season in 2017.
686 carries for 4,952 yards. That comes out to 7.2 yards per carry and 70 TDs. His receiving stats are also pretty remarkable for a college RB with 102 catches for 8 scores including 48 for 588 yards this past season.
Etienne had much more impressive rushing numbers during his sophomore and junior seasons (1600 plus each year) than he did his senior year (914) but he played 3 less games in 2020 so that doesn’t concern me much at all. He also was without his all world QB Trevor Lawrence for 2 games in 2020 due to Covid. Anyone who pulls up some YouTube highlights can see that this player is special and could and should be a very good RB at the pro level. What I wanted to do for this article was find some of the cons and weaknesses to discuss along with the positives before we declare Etienne the next Ladanian Tomlinson.
Etienne is a pure home run hitter. When he gets a little open space he can and will take a handoff or reception to the house. No official 40 time yet but I don’t care what he ends up posting, this dude can fly. Etienne has top level contact balance and can shake tackles better than many speedy RBs. He grew into a smooth and effortless pass catcher over his college career. What I really love about that is he showed that he can work on and improve aspects of his game. That is something that limits many good RB prospects at the next level.
He does not have a crazy amount of wear and tear on his body as compared to some top tier college RBs. He only hit 20 carries once in a game since his sophomore year. In 2020 he actually only averaged 14 carries per game. Overall Etienne has a skillset and body of work that would put him up in the top tier of any recent draft class at the position.
I was not impressed with his vision and patience. I saw multiple examples of Etienne running into the backs of his lineman if there wasn’t a glaring hole. He also seemed to rely on his speed and athleticism a bit too often. What I mean by that is he was usually the best player on the field and got a lot of his big gains by winning the race to the edge. That doesn’t fly at the pro level. It immediately made me think of the first half of rookie seasons for Jonathan Taylor and Miles Sanders. Both of them tried to win runs on talent early in their rookie years and NFL front 7’s just shut them down. That is something that is very coachable and as seen with Sanders and JT, it is a fixable issue. Lastly Etienne is not great at pass protection but he isn’t terrible either. A good RB coach can and will improve that but you can see him make some bad plays in pass pro if you watch his tape.
Overall I like Etienne a lot and will be very shocked if he doesn’t pan out as a very effective NFL running back. The landing spot is going to determine a lot as far his immediate fantasy value and I wouldn’t be shocked if a team took him to pair up with an established veteran. He could start his pro career as a change of pace back but I could see him demanding a big workload by mid season. In a 1 QB dynasty league he is likely the 1.01 or 1.02. Keep an eye out for his pro day numbers but I don’t think they will change his outlook much.