Today we highlight one of the running backs in the draft who is a bit under the radar. Travis Etienne is a phenomenal running back out of Clemson University. Etienne started his career in 2017, and he immediately had an impact. In his freshman year, Travis rushed for over 700 yards and had a total of 13 rushing touchdowns.
In 2018 he had even more of an impact in Clemson’s National Championship run. Etienne totaled over 1,500 yards rushing with 24 touchdowns. Not to mention, he had over 8.1 yards per carry. This season Travis has similar statistics as Clemson is hoping to be back to back champions. He has had 1,500 yards on the dot and 17 rushing touchdowns on the year.
The Good About Etienne
The first thing that jumps out from the tape when watching Etienne is his explosiveness. He is a patient running back who waits for his linemen to do their job, he plants his foot, and then he explodes through a lane. It is incredible to watch honestly. He hits a hole so fast he leaves defenders in the dirt, and he is a blur.
Secondly, he is not a runner that is going to run you over with an incredible trucking ability. But what he lacks, he makes up for with an astonishing leg drive. That’s how he gets his extra yards. Whenever he runs through the middle, he continues to drive his legs to push himself either closer to the first down marker or the end zone.
Lastly, his balance is really impressive to me. Arm tackles will not take him down, nor will they slow him down. It is tough to knock him off of his feet and take him out.
There honestly are not a lot of bad things to say about Etienne. One of the biggest things that he needs to work on in the pros is his decision making when it comes to either going up the middle or running laterally. Sometimes he has tendencies to run to the outside instead of running straight up the middle. This decision can be the difference in gaining yards or losing yards. Lastly, a slightly technical issue is how he can run too upright at times, and that can make it easier for teams to tackle.
Overall I give Etienne a draft grade of 7.6. In my mind, he is a Day two talent. He grades out as a second-rounder in my book, and the third-best back on my draft board, with D’Andre Swift and Jonathan Taylor ranking above him. He is a dangerous back who is going to contribute for a while in the NFL.
When it comes to comparisons in the pros, his style of play reminds me a lot of Darren McFadden when he came out of Arkansas. Although physically, Etienne is different than McFadden, their playstyle is very similar. McFadden was the type of runner who was explosive enough that when he found a hole, he was gone through it. He also was a back who tended to run to the outside if the opportunity was available. Now, let’s hope that Etienne has a better career than McFadden.
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