When the 2021 NFL Draft rolls around, Travis Etienne will be the top player at his position.
There is plenty of exciting running back talent in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Najee Harris returned to Alabama for another season and will show off his incredible combination of burst and power in the open field once again. Chuba Hubbard is a tremendous home-run hitter who is undoubtedly going to be in the RB1 conversation. Kenny Gainwell is not as big of a name, but his tremendous ability as a well-rounded playmaker will get him some consideration as well.
That being said, the more I watch these top-tier 2021 NFL Draft running backs, one player continues to stand above the rest. When it is all said and done, Clemson running back Travis Etienne will and should be the top running back taken in the 2021 NFL Draft next April.
Etienne surprisingly returned to college for his senior season and barring injury, there is no reason to believe that he won’t have another dominant college season. Etienne is an extremely fast and explosive runner who gets up to top speed in an instant. He shows tremendous natural burst through the hole and when he gets an angle on the defender, it is absolutely game over.
Etienne is a big play waiting to happen, showing solid vision, good patience and incredible acceleration at the second-level. He does not have the greatest change-of-direction quickness, but Etienne does have some elusiveness in the open field and can win with quick moves in some 1v1 situations.
Power and contact balance also stand out
That being said, Etienne’s combination of raw speed and power will always be his best plan of attack. When he finds a crease, he will get through the hole quickly and be off to the races. However, when there are not big holes available, Etienne still does a nice job of running behind his pads and picking up as much yardage as possible. Etienne is a tough and aggressive runner who shows impressive natural power at the point of attack and tremendous contact balance.
The Clemson back significantly improved as a pass-catcher out of the backfield last season, looking more natural when catching the ball a majority of the time. He still has plenty of work to do in this area, but there is some legitimate upside in his receiving game.
There are plenty of running backs worth getting excited about in the 2021 NFL Draft class. However, when it comes down to it, Etienne is still the best of the bunch and is a real threat to go in the first round next April.