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Does Travis Etienne Deserve to Be the Top RB in Rookie Drafts? A 2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile

On December 28, 2019, Travis Etienne and the Clemson Tigers take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. Following an undefeated regular season, he and the Tigers will looks to repeat as National Champions.

Background

Etienne was one of the top RBs in the class of 2017. Per 247 Composite rankings, he was the No. 216 overall player and the No. 16 RB in the class. He was graded as a four-star RB, and received scholarship offers from many of the top college programs.

College Production

While it wasn’t completely out of nowhere, Etienne’s burst onto the scene during his freshman season was a bit of surprise. Because he wasn’t a five-star prospect and he was joining a known entity, he wasn’t projected as an instant impact player.

 AttemptsYardsRush TDsReceptionsYardsReceiving TDs
2017107766135570
201820416582412782
2019182150017292982
Career493392454464334

Etienne ranked in the top five among qualified backs in yards per carry during his 2018 season and leads all qualified backs in 2019.

 MS AttemptsMS Rush YardsMS Rush TDsMS TouchesMS Total YardsMS Total TDs
20170.300.380.450.170.160.28
20180.430.480.520.270.230.31
20190.440.540.530.300.270.27
Career0.400.480.500.250.230.29

During his first season on campus, Etienne split RB carries with, now transferred Tavien Feaster, and tied for second in total rush attempts behind QB, Kelly Bryant. Once the offense shifted over to a more traditional QB with Trevor Lawrence, Etienne became the workhorse with 43% of the rush attempts and  27% of the total offensive touches.

Since one of the biggest concerns with Etienne is his ability to carry an NFL workload with his frame, his large market share of carries is a positive for his profile. Adding to the positives is his increased usage in the passing game during his final season.

Draft Prospects

Using the data from Grinding the Mocks, Etienne is being projected as a the fourth RB off the board and a late-second-round selection in the NFL draft. For the purpose of our model, we’ll assume that he holds that position.

With the assumption of maintaining his status as a top-five RB, Etienne finishes in node 13 with an 86% historical success rate. What this indicates is his particular need to perform well at the NFL combine to ensure an early draft slot. If he were to slip to fifth or lower in the RB ranks, he would fall all the way to the lowest success-rate node — less than 3%.

This binary is reiterated by his results in the Box Score Scout tool. Without including his draft position, his top sim scores are Paul PerkinsAlex Collins, and Evan Royster, but when you include his projected position of 55th overall, the list becomes more optimistic.

Etienne’s increased usage in the passing game and propensity for explosive runs mean he currently ranks as my favorite RB in the draft. But comps like T.J. Yeldon and David Wilson remind us he’s no sure thing.

Credit: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Travis Etienne.

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