Travis Etienne Fantasy Football Outlook & Value 2021

When the Jaguars spent the #25 overall pick on Travis Etienne, it came as a major surprise to everyone. I expected he would usurp James Robinson and Carlos Hyde on the depth chart and be a potential candidate for 300 touches this season. Then, new head coach Urban Meyer stated that Etienne would be a “third-down back” and that Robinson and Hyde would be the “1-2, downhill, powerful running backs”. Does that mean Etienne will only be in on third downs? That much is unclear at this point, but the talented Clemson product should demand touches in Jacksonville early on this season.

2020 Recap 

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
91414485882270.222.5

Travis Etienne put together some monstrous production this past season at Clemson, but it was actually a down year for him compared to the prior two seasons. In both 2018 and 2019, Etienne ran for over 1,600 yards and scored 23+ combined touchdowns. He was the every-down back at Clemson and he dominated touches in a way that few running backs did. Etienne was excellent alongside Trevor Lawrence in college and you have to imagine the Jaguars’ new franchise quarterback had his front office’s ear when they made their second selection in the first round.

2021 Projection 

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
601.6648.2447.64188.911.2

The Jaguars had just 337 rushing attempts as a team last season, the fewest in the NFL. That volume should increase some this year, but Jacksonville still figures to have one of the worst defenses in football. That will put them in a lot of pass-heavy game scripts as Trevor Lawrence tries to play catch-up. James Robinson and Carlos Hyde will surely see some level of involvement on the ground, and with very few rushing attempts to go around, it’s hard to imagine Etienne seeing a large volume of carries this season. He will, however, be involved enough in the passing game to buoy his value as a top-30 RB in fantasy.

ADP & Auction Value 

ADP: 80, Round 7, RB33

Auction Value: $15

I’ve seen leagues where fantasy managers will reach on Etienne as early as the fourth or fifth round. With how little of a guarantee there is for him to see immediate work behind an underwhelming offensive line, it’s evident that he should be picked in the mid to late rounds. Etienne does have some upside, and there are scenarios where he finishes as a top-15 RB in fantasy, but there are too many unknown variables for me to justify taking him earlier than some of the more locked-in players at his position.

Floor

A wildly variable floor is the issue with Travis Etienne this season. That the Jaguars spent a first-round pick on him suggests that he will see some involvement in the offense, and I do have him leading the team in carries this season. However, James Robinson had 240 carries for 1,070 yards as an undrafted free agent last year and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get the first crack at first and second-down rushing despite the new regime. If Etienne truly is more of a third-down back, he may not see enough carries to support strong fantasy value. He’s a very talented player who should be tremendously efficient on a per-touch basis, but I have my doubts about his volume overall.

Ceiling 

If the Jaguars’ defense can improve to the point that they’re more competitive in games, perhaps the team sees a significant uptick in rushing volume this year. With more carries and the potential for Etienne to be a three-down back, perhaps he can be a 250-touch player this season and produce for fantasy on limited touches a la Alvin Kamara in his rookie year. However, I have real doubts about this team beyond the quarterback and skill position players and I believe this troubling offensive line will keep Etienne from reaching elite efficiency metrics. Etienne ending up around top-15 RB value wouldn’t be shocking, but I don’t see it as a very likely outcome.

Jacksonville Jaguars Offense 

The Jaguars scored just 19.1 points per game last season, the third-fewest in the NFL, so it makes perfect sense why they looked to completely remake their offensive personnel. Trevor Lawrence comes in as one of the most-hyped quarterback prospects of all time after throwing for 90 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions through three seasons at Clemson. D.J. Chark caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and 8 touchdowns two years ago but had a down season in 2020 as he struggled to replicate those numbers. However, the continued emergence of second-year receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and the addition of veteran wideout Marvin Jones Jr. should give Jacksonville a talented three-headed wide receiver trio. James Robinson and Carlos Hyde join Travis Etienne in a murky RBBC, but all three can provide some value. Jacksonville’s interior offensive line is solid with Brandon Linder, Andrew Norwell, and A.J. Cann all solid players at their respective positions. However, I have some doubts about Jacksonville’s offensive tackles Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor. Overall, this offense should be a whole lot better than it was last year, but it may still be very pass-heavy due to a weak defense on the other side.

Strength of Schedule  

The Jaguars have a pretty neutral schedule in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs this season and they currently face the 12th-easiest slate of games for the RB position. The AFC South is home to the Texans (32nd) and Titans (25th), two of the worst fantasy defenses against RBs last year, as well as the Colts (8th) who fared much better against the position. Etienne will face each of those teams twice. The Jaguars do face the NFC West which houses the 49ers (5th) and Rams (7th), two elite run defenses, as well as the Cardinals (16th) and Seahawks (17th), both of whom were solid against the run last year. In the AFC, the Jaguars face the East. That division is home to the Dolphins (12th) and Patriots (15th), two strong defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, while the Bills (18th) and Jets (19th) should be somewhat more beatable. Rounding out the Jaguars’ schedule are the Broncos (21st), Bengals (20th), and Falcons (9th), three somewhat beatable defenses. There are some challenges on this slate to be sure, but Etienne will likely suffer more from pass-heavy game scripts than he will any matchups with tough defenses.

Bottom Line

There’s a strong track record for first-round running backs producing elite fantasy football numbers in their rookie season, but there’s much less of a track record of those running backs being drafted to a team that has a young running back in place who ran for 1,000+ yards as a UDFA the prior season. Urban Meyer’s team could end up fielding an annoying RBBC, and while Travis Eitenne has the highest upside among the group, I just don’t see him getting consistent enough work to be a reliable starting running back in fantasy. You could do a lot worse with a late-round pick, but don’t necessarily reach for Etienne just due to name value.

2021 Fantasy Football Player Outlooks
  
I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. I've been playing fantasy football for as long as I can remember and am now in far more leagues than any person should take part in. There are few things that give me as much joy and excitement as fantasy football, and I'm excited to share my input with you in your journey towards a championship.

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