2021 NFL Draft Profile: RB Travis Etienne
It’s hard to look back over the draft classes in recent memory and identify a player with the same level of speed and explosiveness as Etienne. However, not only is he simply a threat to “take it to the house” every single play, he’s a well-rounded player that is going to fill a significant role for an NFL franchise.
There’s a famous quote from Etienne a couple of years ago that references his perception of being used as a pass-catcher out of the backfield:
“I don’t know, I feel nervous I guess. Cause the ball is coming, and I always feel like the defender is right there, so I run before I catch the ball and get spooked by my surroundings.”
This quote was from back in 2019, and it’s shocking to look back and see the growth and development of Etienne as a receiver. Etienne saw his reception numbers climb from five in 2017 all the way to 48 receptions in 12 games this past season. He was Trevor Lawrence’s safety blanket out of the backfield, and he handled the role extremely well.
What kind of role will Etienne fill at the NFL level, though? Will he be a true three-down workhorse?
These questions are answered here in our detailed scouting profile on Travis Etienne.
Weight: 215 lbs.
Arms: 31 1/8
Hands: 9 3/8
40-Yard Dash: 4.45 seconds
Vertical Jump: 33.5 inches
Broad Jump: 10-8
Skills Breakdown (out of 100)
Vision (75): Etienne is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. He’s a speed demon that has improved dramatically as a receiver throughout his time in college too. He shows good vision in between the tackles and often knows exactly where the gap will open up. However, he struggles with a horizontal change of direction, limiting his ability to cut across multiple gaps. If he’s put in a wide zone scheme where he’s able to identify the gap, plant his foot, and accelerate quickly upfield, he’ll be nearly unstoppable. Otherwise, he struggles between the tackles due to running with wide legs and long strides versus short, controlled movements.
Burst (80): Tremendous burst and should be unparalleled in this class. He has the ability to go from 0-60 like few other human beings on this planet, and he’s gone if he sees green grass. This can sometimes be detrimental, though, as he often has problems slowing down his momentum to cut or find a new running lane if the one he had identified closes up. He needs to continue to work on harnessing this ability and knowing when to slam the foot on the gas versus gradually accelerating and breaking angles.
Change of Direction (71): Struggles to change direction horizontally. This can be for multiple reasons, but it has a lot to do with how he runs – very upright – and the aforementioned issues with struggling to harness his momentum.
Power (74): He’s shown improvement in his willingness to engage in contact and lower his shoulder. He doesn’t have the size or frame to move defenders backward but has the toughness to engage and fight off tacklers.
Speed (82): Should light it up at the NFL Combine in the 40-yard dash. Tremendous top-end speed that will be top-5 in the NFL at the RB position from day one.
Contact Balance (80): Excellent contact balance and ability to keep his feet underneath him. He isn’t constantly shedding tackles but can fight off poor tackling attempts that knock him off his course and keep his foundation.
Pass Catching (77): Excellent pass-catcher and has improved drastically throughout his college career. Unlikely to be the type of player to soak up 60+ targets in a season, but he certainly should be utilized in this capacity in the NFL.
Pass Protection (74): Excellent in pass protection as well. Willing to step in and engage with blitzing LBs and hold his own.
Travis Etienne just blew by the whole defense ???? @swaggy_t1
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 29, 2019
Pass Protection is one of the most underrated traits for a NFL RB. It’s certainly not the most important, but I love seeing these types of plays on tape.
Watch Travis Etienne (RB – Clemson) stand in and protect his QB on this play. pic.twitter.com/7g5sd48SLZ
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) January 15, 2021
They Said It
Projected Draft Range
There’s a battle towards the top of this class to determine which player will be the first RB off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft. Etienne has an excellent chance, but it’s hard to see an NFL team selecting him in the top-25 picks. It’s likely that we see him off the board by the middle of the second round, though.
Ideal Fantasy Landing Spot
Assessing the NFL’s current landscape, plus the schemes that Etienne would be best utilized, it’s hard to find a more perfect landing spot than the New York Jets. Etienne would be utilized heavily on outside zone runs, which would take advantage of his speed and athleticism, but they also have a glaring need at RB right now. Etienne would potentially walk into a massive workload in a young offense that now has some solid pieces to build around.
Etienne’s receiving prowess, his contact balance, and his top-end speed draw a lofty comparison here. While the play styles might not be identical, the role that they’re going to be asked to fill could be very similar at the next level. Alvin Kamara has made his mark in the NFL as a sure-handed receiver out of the backfield paired with his outstanding contact balance. Kamara’s not utilized heavily as a pure runner, but he sees significant work game in and game out as a receiving weapon. Etienne might never cross 200 carries in a season, but he can make a significant impact for fantasy football if a team chooses to utilize his strengths as a pass-catcher.