NFL Prospect Profiles #2 Travis Etienne. I want to bring light to some of the guys that’ll be suiting up for your teams next season. Personally, draft night is my favourite night of the year. And that’s because I sit down with an understanding for a lot of the players who’s lives are about to change forever, and it helps me appreciate the deeper meaning of the NFL draft. It’s not simply, ‘who will the Dolphins select?’ and then once made clear turning the TV off and going to bed. It’s knowing what these guys went through to get to where they are, and enjoying the draft from start to finish as they achieve their lifelong dream. Disclaimer. I am not an NFL scout, these are simply my humble opinions on some of the talent heading to the league this year. Welcome to the series, let’s take a look at Etienne!
Travis Etienne – RB Clemson
Before we start, the pronunciation is ‘E – Tee – Enn’, handy tip for yourselves.
Clemson, another powerhouse of college football, having serious success in the last few years due to a string of elite quarterback talent. Deshaun Watson, a year with Kelly Bryant, followed by Trevor Lawrence is not a bad run at all. That run also includes two national titles. Dabo Sweeney, head coach of the Clemson Tigers, now in his 12th season with the team, has worked wonders in turning it into one of the best programs in the country.
One of the many talents helping to make that happen is elite running back Travis Etienne.
Now in his fourth season with the Tigers, it was Travis Etienne’s decision to stay at college for his senior season, when he could have easily stepped into the NFL last season. Now a senior, he fancied one last ride and another push at a second title before he graduates from the Clemson orange for good.
Originally from Louisiana, Travis had 2,459 yards and 39 touchdowns as a senior in high school. He was ranked a four star recruit, and the crystal ball predictions had his choice being between Clemson and LSU, the home town team. He also fielded offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Oregon, Miami and a tonne of other prestigious universities.
Etienne bought into Clemson’s program after they won the national title with Deshaun Watson. Their success and national title obviously helped with recruitment, and Etienne was one of the fruits of that success.
Four seasons. 76 touchdowns. Yup.
Etienne had 107 carries for 766 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman. With Kelly Bryant as the teams quarterback, having sat behind Deshaun Watson for two years, there was a dual threat element to their offence. Etienne therefore shared carries with the quarterback in Bryant, and also fellow running back Tavien Feaster.
However, when Trevor Lawrence came in and won the quarterback job as a freshman in 2018, the way they ran their offence changed. All of a sudden the QB carries went from 198 in 2017, to just 60 with Trevor Lawrence in 2018. This meant Clemson needed a pure breed running back to depend on week in week out. A work horse who could carry the load.
Etienne emerged as that guy and found himself having an incredible season. He led all FBS players in touchdowns, totalling 24 rushing, plus another two receiving, and that 26 also led all FBS players in all purpose touchdowns. He was pivotal to their success, and paired with freshman phenomenon T Law, all eyes were on Clemson for the season.
They tore through Pitt in the ACC Championship game, in which Travis was named MVP of the game, He was then named ACC player of the year and a first team all American by ESPN. His numbers for 2018 were crazy…
1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns as a running back is a pretty impressive outing and shows you exactly why he was named ACC player of the year.
Clemson went on to win the National title that season with Etienne and Trevor Lawrence plus a powerful defence at the helm of their success. They destroyed Notre Dame 30-3 in the semi final, and breezed past Alabama in the final, taking it 44-16. You can find all of his snaps here, including some very impressive runs. He had three touchdowns in the game, and helped the Tigers put the game on ice.
The following season as the above stats display, Etienne was just as productive, hitting over 1600 yards for the second season running. Another 23 touchdowns in total. And again, ACC player of the year. See everybody is talking about Trevor Lawrence, and not enough people are talking about Travis Etienne.
The Tigers fell short of back to back titles only because of the immense strength of the LSU Tigers, Joe Burrow and co. Nobody was stopping them last year. Not even Clemson. So his decision to stay another season is likely down to chasing a second title, something they’re very capable of this year. Only four days after the loss to LSU in the natty, Travis announced on twitter that he’d be staying one more year, despite the popular suggestion that he should head to the league…
“I look forward to earning my degree from this great university and continuing to fight with my brothers on my team to make you proud during the 2020 season.”
So, one more year to prove his worth, as if he needed it…
His numbers this year are unlikely to match the previous two heroic seasons he’s had, but the Tigers are on pace to make the big stage again, and it will be hard to stop them, which means even more time in the spotlight for Travis Etienne.
Take a look at his scouting profile here!
My NFL comparison would be prime Lesean McCoy. Etienne is 5″10. Shady McCoy is 5″11. Both possess the speed to leave you for dead at the slightest sight of a gap opening up. Etienne is shifty, patient, and when the gap opens up he will accelerate through it with the best of them. I’m keen to see how fast he can run on the track at the combine. If he gets into your secondary, you’ll have a hard time catching him. He’s an elusive back, with good hands. As many colleges do, Clemson run’s him out on some swing routes and screens, leading to Etienne accumulating over 1000 career receiving yards and 8 touchdowns at Clemson, to go along with his nearly 5000 career rushing yards and 68 touchdowns on the ground. Check out his 2019 season highlights and you’ll see what I mean about the Shady McCoy vibe.
I would expect to see either Etienne or Najee Harris go first off the board of running backs, and I think we’ll definitely hear both names on day 1. The questions is where does Etienne fit best? He is the kind of running back most teams will be after these days, who can swing out and catch a pass, making a few guys miss for a first down or more. He’d be a perfect fit for a system like the Kansas City Chiefs, however they of course drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the 2020 draft, and also have Leveon Bell now on their books, with Damien Williams still to return after opting out this year.
So where else is a good spot for him to land? Somewhere that utilises their running backs from a dual threat perspective, and needs one on day one.
When you consider team needs, there’s not that many teams this year that would go out and grab a running back on the first day. I’d reduce it down to Miami, Arizona and Tampa Bay.
For Etienne’s skill set, I like him most for the Arizona Cardinals. I’m not overly convinced that Kenyan Drake will still be there for the 2021 season as he nears free agency. The speed of Etienne, the ability to make a man miss, combined with Kyler Murray, Deandre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, timeless Larry Fitz, could be something really special. The Cardinals don’t seem to quite be there yet, having a couple of rough days on offence, and their ground game is a contributing factor to that when they can’t get it going. Two of their last three losses come with a rushing leader (Drake both times), with less than 50 yards on the ground. When they played Seattle on the 20th November, he managed 29 yards, and was still the teams leading rusher.
I think it’s a position the Cardinals will definitely be keen to address, and I like the fit for Travis Etienne. He’ll go down as one of the greats of college football, and a record holder in the ACC. I wish him the best of luck at the next level, and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him in Miami either…