2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Travis Etienneby Christopher Gallagher April 3, 2021 1 comment
One of the most productive players in ACC history, Travis Etienne, heads into the NFL Draft after amassing over 4,900 yards on the ground during his four-year career at Clemson. A threat to score every time he touches the football, he possesses excellent burst and balance out of the backfield while maintaining the straight-line speed to outrun opposing defenders.
Furthermore, he has also made tremendous strides as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, making him a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers in coverage. Increasing his yards per reception from 11.7 to 12.3 during his final year at Clemson, Etienne also hauled in 11 more receptions for 156 more yards. Expected to be a day one draft selection with the potential to morph into one of the elite offensive weapons across the league in the right system; here is the breakdown on Etienne.
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Name: Travis Etienne
Position: Running back
Weight: 215 lbs
An intelligent rusher out of the backfield, Etienne possesses the patience to wait for blocks to develop. Strong at hitting the hole, he can utilize different blocks effectively while waiting for additional rush lanes to develop. However, on a few instances in college, he would hit the line of scrimmage too quickly instead of using his anticipation and burst to wait for windows to develop.
Utilizing his lightning-quick agility, Etienne can bounce runs to the outside and make opposing defenders miss. A threat to score every time he touches the football, he tied the longest run in Clemson history on a 90-yard touchdown burst against Georgia Tech in 2019. Needing to land in a system that allows him to get out on the edges, he can beat opposing defenders to the corner while getting to the second level and creating a highlight-reel play.
His most potent trait, Etienne, maintains track-level speed that allows him to hit the hole in a hurry and get to the second level of the defense. Averaging over seven yards per carry throughout his four-year college tenure, once he hits the open field, he can outrun defenders on the way to the end zone. Recently clocking 40 yard dash times of 4.41 and 4.43 at Clemson’s pro day in March, Etienne owns an immense amount of speed that will make him one of the most dangerous weapons across the league at the next level.
Ball Security (7/10)
A problem for Etienne over his entire tenure at Clemson, he put the ball on the ground six times over his final two seasons. Often the result of a bad quarterback exchange on a run play, there also remained a few plays where he would carry the ball too high or low, giving opposing defenders a chance to make a play on the ball and rip it out. An easy fix at the pro level, look for Etienne to clean up his turnover issues like other college backs who had problems with fumbles, such as Ezekiel Elliott and Jonathan Taylor.
While he does not remain overly large at 5’10” 215, Etienne can run with an effective body lean and pad level. Etienne can also lower his shoulder into opposing players while maintaining strong balance with his feet through the contact. Far from an aggressive power-like back, he led the nation in broken tackles in 2019 with 91 missed tackles forced. Furthermore, he averaged an astounding 5.07 yards after contact while adding 27 rushes of over 15 yards.
Much improved as a receiver, Etienne saw his catch totals increase each season at Clemson. Along with this, he also saw his drop total decrease to just two during his senior season. Utilizing natural hands, he expanded his route tree from mainly screens and check-downs to a more diverse combination in 2020. Able to create chunk plays out of the backfield on short passing combinations as a result of his speed, Etienne will be a solid contributor to any NFL team’s passing attack.
Pass Protection (6/10)
Cause for concern for any NFL team, he will need to improve his blitz pickups to become a true every-down back at the NFL level. Often indecisive in diagnosing opposing schemes and identifying where the extra rushers are coming, he also needs to clean up his technique to succeed in the pros.
A major contributor to the Tigers special teams unit, Etienne returned 32 kickoffs for over 700 yards, with 22.6 yards averaged per return. Fielding one punt for Clemson this past season, Etienne was able to use both his rare athleticism and speed to return the ball 44 yards and flip the field. Dynamic with the ball in his hands, he was reportedly asked by teams to field both kickoffs and punts at his pro day.
Possessing exceptional power in his legs, Etienne can drag defenders for extra yardage. In addition to this, he also can run over opposing players in the tackle box. Lastly, after weighing in at just under 200 pounds the past few years, Etienne made a concerted effort to add weight and strengthen his frame before heading to the NFL, leading him to weigh in at 215 pounds at the Tigers pro day.
Competitive Toughness/Effort (4/5)
Willing to give his all on every snap, Etienne constantly keeps his legs moving while embracing contact. Furthermore, while struggling to diagnose blitzes with his poor blocking technique, he remains willing to get in front of opposing defenders to protect the quarterback.
Suffering mainly bumps and bruises the past few seasons, he does not have any injury concerns that may cause his draft stock to slip.
Neck and neck with Alabama’s Najee Harris for the top running back spot in April’s draft in the eyes of many, Etienne projects to be the next great offensive weapon in the NFL. Boasting a rare combination of home-run speed and agility, he also has the strength to run inside the tackles and make opposing defenders pay. Furthermore, Etienne also has both the hands and vision to split out wide and run a variety of routes from out of the backfield. Lastly, with upside on special teams as both a kick and punt returner, look for him to make an impact immediately as a rookie. With a late first-round target attached to his draft position, potential landing spots include the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Final Score (80/100): Mid to Late First Round Pick
Player Comp: Alvin Kamara