2021 NFL Draft: Scouting Report for Clemson RB Travis Etienne
Many scouts believed that Travis Etienne could have forgone his senior year of eligibility, and would have been one of the first running backs taken in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, Etienne decided to return for another chance at a national title with the Clemson Tigers. Now Etienne, barring any setbacks, is almost a lock to be the first running back taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Etienne, who will be entering his third year as Clemson’s starting running back, has rushed for over 1,600 yards in each season as the starter. He also was able to add a total of 43 rushing touchdowns. Etienne is already the Clemson leader in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, with 4,038 yards and 54 touchdowns respectively.
The 5’10” 210-pound running back uses a nice blend of speed, agility, and balance to break arm tackles and make defenders look silly. Etienne is best as an east-west runner who can break-off for chunks of yardage with his speed and acceleration. He can easily blow past defenders en route to a long touchdown. As a matter of fact, per pff, 22.7% of Etienne’s runs went for 10 or more yards.
Not only can Etienne be effective as an east-west runner, but can also find the running lane up the middle. He uses his balance to squeeze through those tight running lanes, and his strength to bounce off of defenders and stay on his feet.
Although Etienne is a pretty polished runner, to put it modestly, he needs to work on being effective in the passing game. Etienne only accounted for 37 catches, 432 yards, and 4 touchdowns in the air.
Not too shabby, but looks can be deceiving. Many of these yards were gained on check-downs and screens, where Etienne was able to get into space. His route tree is rather limited. Not to mention he also had some crucial drops for the Tigers. However, with news that star wide receiver Justyn Ross will be out this season with a spinal injury, and Tee Higgins recently drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, there will be plenty of opportunities for Etienne in the passing game.
Etienne does not only have to work in the catching and route running aspect of his game, but also on his pass protection. Often times, Etienne was late picking up his blocking assignment. This would lead to his quarterback having more pressure than normal, and sometimes even sacks. He needs to be able to get off of the play-action quicker, identify his assignment, and get in the rusher’s pads and use his strength to make the block.
If he works on his pass protection and receiving abilities, then Etienne could go even higher in the draft.
Player Comparison: Dalvin Cook
Both Cook and Etienne have produced eerily similar stats throughout their college careers. Cook had 4,464 rushing yards in three years at Florida State and 46 touchdowns. Etienne has fewer yards, but more touchdowns. They also have the same stature. Cook stands at 5’11” and 213 pounds.
Not only that, but Cook was also very limited in the passing game during his college career. Cook only had a combined two receiving touchdowns in his career. They both use their speed and agility to get to the next level, and not rely on their strength. The main difference is that Etienne does not have the off-field and injury history that dropped Cook’s draft stock.
Etienne will look to add a second national championship to his resume before potentially being drafted in the first round of the 2021 draft.