Travis Etienne's Fantasy Outlook After Jaguars Select RB in 2021 NFL Draft

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Clemson running back Travis Etienne (9) runs for a touchdown during the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. Etienne was selected to The Associated Press All-America first-team offense, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020.(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Brian Blanco/Associated Press

Travis Etienne was always going to be one of the first running backs off the board at the 2021 NFL draft. But now that the Jacksonville Jaguars have scooped him up with the No. 25 overall pick, the question becomes what type of fantasy impact he'll have this season. 

The former Clemson Tiger rushed for over 1,600 yards in each of his sophomore and junior seasons—and 43 total touchdowns on the ground—before posting 914 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior in 12 games. He did set career highs in receptions (48) and receiving yards (588) last season, adding two scores and erasing any narratives that he couldn't make an impact in the passing game.

But he does his best work after the handoff. For his career, he averaged a whopping 7.2 rushing yards per carry. 

In late March, the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah called Etienne the draft's 20th-best prospect, describing him as a "compact, muscled-up running back with outstanding burst and balance" who is "at his best as a one-cut runner, putting his foot in the ground and exploding up the field."

He added that Etienne "doesn't have elite vision or wiggle, but his speed is real, and it's spectacular when given a runway."

Peter Schrager @PSchrags

Comp for Etienne from a an AFC HC: “He’s Alvin Kamara.” Pretty good. @Jaguars

That gives him home run hitter potential in the NFL, the type of skill set that should make him appealing to you come your fantasy draft. Rookies always are a risky proposition when it comes to fantasy football, though the running back position is generally the safest to bet on. 

Last season, for instance, Jonathan Taylor finished as the RB6, while James Robinson was RB7, Antonio Gibson was RB13, DeAndre Swift was RB18, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was RB22 and J.K. Dobbins was RB24. Six rookies finishing as top-25 running backs in fantasy should make you feel comfortable about targeting Etienne in the middle rounds. 

But man, Etienne ending up in Jacksonville isn't great for him from a fantasy perspective. He'll enter an immediate timeshare with James Robinson, who rushed for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns last season. In that regard, both players see their fantasy upside dinged. 

Michael Fabiano @Michael_Fabiano

The Jaguars select Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson ... this stinks in fantasy.

But this will be an Urban Meyer offense. There will be a lot of running the football, and there will be creative ways to get Etienne the ball. He'll have a role. Just potentially not as big of a role as he would have had elsewhere. 

Brad Evans @NoisyHuevos

Trevor Lawrence reteaming with Travis Etienne is pure bliss. Etienne owns unreal explosiveness and wiggle in the open field. Can work in tandem with James Robinson. Not an ideal landing spot, but a minimum of 50 receptions should be expected in Year 1.

Etienne has flex upside. Robinson probably settles into the RB2 range. Perhaps Jacksonville's offense will sustain both, but they each are riskier from a fantasy perspective together than they would have been separate.