The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
Travis Etienne was set to be the offensive do-it-all in Urban Meyer’s Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense, but the former Clemson Tiger suffered a Lisfranc injury in the preseason, ending his rookie year before it began. His absence from an already thin, rebuilding roster led the Jaguars to a disastrous 3-14 season and 32nd-place offensive showing. Meyer was unceremoniously fired, and now Doug Pederson will try to bring respectability to the franchise.
Is Travis Etienne someone worth building your fantasy roster around? At his current ADP, Etienne is coming off the board in the fourth round of 12-team leagues. His RB19 draft position is perfectly in-line with our staff consensus ranking current. In other words, Etienne is worth his price, but he’s not a value play, either.
The Good News, Part 1…He’s Healthy
Last preseason in a late August game against the Saints, Etienne’s rookie year ended before it officially began. The first-rounder suffered a Lisfranc injury and had to watch from the sidelines as his college teammate – Trevor Lawrence – and his new Jaguars teammates struggled to move the ball in nearly every game script. But if there’s a silver lining to getting hurt in August, it’s that he’s had 11 months to recuperate and rehab. The recovery has gone well, and Etienne recently told local beat writers he has no limitations heading into training camp.
The Good News, Part 2…He’s Talented
Etienne was a four-year starter at Clemson and helped the Tigers to four consecutive ACC titles (35-1 in ACC play) and a national championship in 2018. While his teammate Trevor Lawrence was the 1st overall pick last year, it was Etienne who became the first Clemson Tiger since the 1970s to win ACC Player of the Year in consecutive seasons.
- 3x All-ACC
- 2x ACC Offensive Player of the Year (beating out Lawrence)
- 2x ACC Player of the Year
- 4,952 career rushing yards (All-time ACC record)
- 70 career rushing touchdowns (All-time ACC record)
- 78 career total touchdowns (All-time ACC record)
- 486 career points scored (All-time ACC record)
- 46 games with at least a touchdown (ACC and NCAA record)
The Good News, Part 3…He’s Versatile
While his rushing prowess and college accolades are well documented, it’s important to remember Etienne was lining up as a wide receiver during much of his rookie preseason. He was attending both running back and wide receiver meetings. The expectation was he wouldn’t merely be a safety valve for dump-off passes but would line up on the line of scrimmage and run a full route tree at times.
While we can’t be sure the new coaching staff has similar plans, Etienne’s skill set warrants a multi-faceted role. He caught 102 receptions at Clemson, and as a senior, his 48 receptions were the second-most of any FBS running back.
The Good News, Part 4…The Depth Chart is Thin
When the Jaguars drafted Etienne last year, fantasy managers’ hearts dropped because it meant two potential fantasy studs were instead going to eat into each other via a committee. James Robinson was the shocking breakout star in 2020, but a first-round pick in Etienne combined with a new coaching staff cast a shadow. As we now know, Etienne’s absence didn’t matter because Urban Meyer insisted on limiting Robinson’s touches in a committee with Carlos Hyde and Dare Ogunbowale. Unfortunately, Robinson tore his Achilles in Week 16, casting his role this year in serious doubt. While many point to Cam Akers’ miraculous recovery in Los Angeles as a blueprint, Akers remains an extreme outlier versus other athletes with Achilles injuries. At a minimum, Robinson isn’t going to be ready at the start of the season. But the reality is he may never be the same again.
Beyond Etienne and Robinson, the Jaguars running back depth chart looks suspect:
- Snoop Conner – Conner is a fifth-round rookie who only started two games as a collegian. A botched Combine and inexperience paint him more as a special-teams contributor than a threat to Etienne’s snaps
- Ryquell Armstead – Armstead was fifth in rushing attempts last year for the Jaguars; he’ll be lucky to make the 53-man roster
- Mekhi Sargent – Sargent bounced around the league and played for three teams last season. He’s the definition of an end-of-roster hopeful
- Nathan Cottrell – Cottrell is a special-teamer who’s been active for 12 of 33 games and only used as a part-time kickoff returner
The Good News, Part 5…Trevor Lawrence Chemistry
How often does a star collegiate quarterback get to play with his tailback in the NFL? We cannot minimize the importance of Etienne’s role in Lawrence’s success at Clemson. As we already noted, Etienne – not Lawrence – landed ACC Player of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons. While we can’t say Lawrence would’ve played well last season if Etienne stayed healthy, we can confidently say they’ll benefit from years of friendship, timing, and trust when they take the field together this season.
That’s a Lot of Good News, So Why Isn’t He a Table-Pounding Value?
There are a lot of reasons for excitement, as we’ve shown. But several offsetting concerns must be acknowledged.
The Bad News, Part 1…Doug Pederson Loves Committees
We’ve already shown the depth chart leaves much to be desired, but that’s never stopped Doug Pederson from spreading the ball around before. Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Ryan Mathews all had at least one season with 50+ carries for Pederson in five years as the Eagles head coach.
TABLE: Eagles Running Back Workload under Doug Pederson
|Year||RB1 Snap %||RB1 Att %||RB2 Snap %||RB2 Att %||RB3 Snap %||RB3 Att %|
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