Travis Etienne
Travis Etienne has bust written all over him. The team that drafts the Clemson running back is playing a very dangerous game. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

Travis Etienne? Hard pass. No thank you. It’s one thing to take a running back in the first round. It’s another thing to take someone like Etienne who could easily flame out of the league altogether. The team that takes the Clemson running back on draft day should be laughed at and mocked. Whoever pulls the trigger on Etienne will have done so too soon.

Travis Etienne has bust written all over him. I said this often in my draft notes, but it’s true. The more I saw Etienne, the less impressed I was. I don’t want to say Etienne can’t play at all. What I will tell you is that his ability has been greatly overstated.

One thing that is undeniable is that Etienne took a major step back during his senior year. Etienne’s yard per carry mark dipped from 7.8 in 2019 to 5.4 in 2020. That’s not by accident. He’s a smaller back that looks like he was worn down by a large workload and lost a step of his explosion. Etienne had 686 carries in college. Not exactly a spring chicken in terms of usage rate.

More so than anything, knee bend is a crucial part of the scouting process for me. Etienne might be fast but he’s not nimble or sharp cutting. There’s an elongated style to Etienne. The Clemson back is a long strider during areas he needs to cram through a phone book. He’s not the back I want from a movement perspective.

Worse yet, Etienne has bad hands. His pass catching ability has been widely exaggerated. I saw Etienne drop a number of easy targets coming out of the backfield. His fumbling issues in college only confirm this notion. Etienne lost four fumbles in 2020 which is just totally unacceptable. How can I use an early pick on a back that doesn’t even take care of the football?

The red flags don’t stop there. Etienne has bad vision. Often times he doesn’t hit the hole he should. Either because he doesn’t see it or gets greedy looking for the home run. During the regular season against Notre Dame, Etienne had 28 rushing yards on 18 attempts. It was a shit show of Etienne refusing to take the yardage given to him. He’d rather run backward hoping for the occasional home run. Not ideal.

Of course, Trevor Lawrence didn’t play during the first Notre Dame meeting. It doesn’t matter. Notre Dame focused on shutting down Etienne and they did just that. Any running back that can be neutralized that easily isn’t worth my time. For the record, Etienne was bad against Ohio State too. When asked to be the man in the offense, he failed to get it done when needed.

There’s almost a wasted motion quality to Etienne. There’s no smoothness or cutting. Etienne is fast and has more power than you think. The quickness element or finesse cuts are not there. If he doesn’t take the straight line homer to the house, there’s nothing here. Etienne plays at one speed. Zero crafty element to his game.

I have Etienne 6th on my running back rankings. I probably wouldn’t start to consider drafting him until the 4th or 5th round. He’s not close to the top end running backs like D’Andre Swift, JK Dobbins, or Cam Akers from a year ago. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze more often than not when you draft running backs early. You’re playing a dangerous game taking someone like Etienne who has more red flags than the people who willingly go on Jerry Springer.

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