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"I think we could use him more. He's a really good runner. We were talking about that as a staff this morning, on how we can utilize him a little bit more and maybe take some off of Travis just a little bit."
Doug Pederson had that to say about JaMycal Hasty in November 2022. Etienne had come off a 30-touch performance - one of his career-best games - and fantasy managers were ecstatic. Etienne finished Week 9 as the RB3 overall, scoring 26 fantasy points and establishing himself as a workhorse in the second week after James Robinson's departure. He carried the ball 28 times in Week 9.
He combined for 26 carries in the following three games. His highest carry total through the rest of the season was 22. He didn't receive 30 touches another time that season. Thirty touches is a lot - most running backs don't reach that total once through a season. But committee backfields are the driving force in Doug Pederson's ideologies, and every action following that Week 9 performance indicates he desires a return to his roots. But fantasy managers are drafting Etienne as if he's the workhorse, boosting his Average Draft Position to RB13 in the third or early-fourth rounds of drafts. However, three key factors indicate that a potential return on investment could leave managers disappointed.
- Doug Pederson's affinity for committee backfields
- Tank Bigsby's arrival
- Etienne's inefficiencies when deployed as a committee back
Doug Pederson & the Committee Backfield
Despite pulling Etienne back following that 30-touch performance, Doug Pederson still put more on him than he prefers, if history is any indicator. Pederson almost exclusively deploys committee backfields, with the height of that philosophy frustrating Miles Sanders's managers during his stint in Philadelphia.
|Year||Team||RB1||RB1 Attempts||RB1 Targets||RB1 Rush%||RB1 Target%|
|Year||Team||RB2||RB2 Attempts||RB2 Targets||RB2 Rush%||RB2 Target%|
|Year||Team||RB3||RB3 Attempts||RB3 Targets||RB3 Rush%||RB3 Target%|
Etienne's workload exceeded the traditional No. 1 option in a Pederson-led offense, with only Jamaal Charles in 2013 - Pederson's first year as offensive coordinator of the Chiefs - exceeding his raw carry total. James Robinson and JaMycal Hasty came in under the attempt averages, but the Jaguars deployed the former as a critical piece in the committee until his departure following Week 7. Robinson averaged 11.6 attempts and over a catch per game in his seven games with the team. Robinson never seemed fully healthy and was reasonably inefficient, making him expendable, which led to his trade to New York. Still, the intent to deploy a committee was clear for the season's first seven weeks.
We'll discuss Etienne's performance within that seven-week sample later, but opportunities are the most critical indicators of running back performance. Volume is king. The average top-13 running back over the last five years receives 289 touches. Tarik Cohen's 170 touches in 2018 resulted in a top-12 finish, but that was on the back of 71 receptions for 725 yards, an unrealistic receiving workload within the Jaguars' offense. If the Jaguars were to deploy a committee backfield similar to the seven-week sample, Etienne would not reach 200 touches - a problem for his fantasy ceiling. And when factoring in the talent of the new rotation piece, it's difficult to see a path toward a bell cow workload.
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