Clemson running back Travis Etienne is one of the most enigmatic prospects in all of the 2020 NFL Draft. Etienne, who has carried the load in the Clemson backfield for the better part of three seasons now, has been one of the most prolific players at his position during his time at the collegiate level. Many scouts and experts peg Etienne as a day one starter in the NFL. However, despite his dominance at one of college football’s predominant universities, others believe that the Louisiana-born product is nothing more than a change of pace back at the next level.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller is one of the people less than fond of Etienne’s prospects at the next level. Miller ranks the Clemson Tiger as his RB6 in his latest 2020 NFL Draft Big Board.
WalterFootball has a similar outlook on Etienne as a draft prospect, ranking him as their fifth-best running back in the class of 2020. They have Etienne currently projected as a second to third-round draft pick in this year’s upcoming draft.
Here at Heavy, we view Etienne as much more of a late Day 1 draft pick to an early Day 2 pick. In our 2020 NFL Mock Draft: CFB Playoff Edition, we slotted Etienne in the first round, 27th overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. Etienne’s game-breaking ability would fit in seamlessly in what is already arguably the most explosive offense in football. Plus, if 2019 has shown us anything, it’s the fact that the Chiefs RB1 for next season is currently not on their roster.
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Travis Etienne’s NFL Draft Profile
Pros: Etienne is one of the true home-run hitters in this year’s draft class. The running back has broken off touchdowns of 75+ yards in each of the past three seasons at Clemson. While his game-changing speed is electrifying, it tends to overshadow what is arguably his best attributes. Etienne has above-average vision (when he so chooses), and most notably, extremely under-appreciated balance as a runner. He set PFF’s all-time record for missed tackles forced, breaking a tackle on 46% of his attempts this past season. In fact, 973 of Etienne’s 1,492 rushing yards this season came after contact. He’s a touchdown machine, accumulating 58 total TDs in 41 games at Clemson. Etienne has also shown improvement as a pass-catcher and projects well to developing more as a receiver at the next level (ala Alvin Kamara).
Cons: His speed can be his best friend, and at other times his worst nightmare. He tends to rely heavily on his speed, choosing to bounce the ball outside rather than churning out a few hard-earned yards. At times Etienne will be quick to make decisions, rather than letting blocks develop, leaving yards to be had. While he’s improved as a pass-catcher this year, he was not asked to do much of it during his time at Clemson, mostly due to the fact that the school is littered with legitimate NFL wide receivers.
Draft Projection: Late 1st Round to Early 2nd Round
In today’s NFL, a case could be made that Etienne is the most deserving running back of being selected in the first round of the 2020 draft. His speed is lethal, while he possesses enough stockiness (210 lbs.) to go along with superb balance, and ability to make the first man miss. All these factors point towards Etienne being able to carry the modern-day workload of a starting NFL running back.