Jaguars draft: RB Travis Etienne’s selection comes with pros and cons
The Jacksonville Jaguars did as expected and took Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Later in the first round, they used the 25th overall selection on Clemson running back Travis Etienne. While nobody will question the Jags for taking Lawrence with the top pick, Etienne’s selection comes with pros and cons.
Nobody will deny Etienne is a talented player. Even though he didn’t reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark in his senior year at Clemson, he still played at a high level and finished the year with 168 carries for 914 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s overly explosive and managed to stay healthy over his collegiate career. Although he needs to work on his pass-protection skills, he’s an outstanding receiver out of the backfield.
Etienne has the talent to form, along with sophomore James Robinson, one of the NFL’s best running back tandems. Even though the Illinois State product performed at a high level in his rookie campaign, the Jaguars, as a team, ranked 28th in rushing yards in 2020. Etienne’s presence and improved offensive line play should help Jacksonville have a more efficient running game in 2021, so looking back, this was a great pick by Jacksonville, wasn’t it?
Why did the Jacksonville Jaguars draft a running back in the first round?
When looking at the Jags’ decision to draft Etienne 25th overall, the positives are clear, but the selection comes with a caveat. Why would they draft a running back in the first round? Nowadays, they aren’t the workhorses they used to be when Jim Brown or Walter Payton used to roam the football field. With passing games taking over the game, running backs have taken a back seat. Although it’s nice to have a top-tier running back or a committee, it’s an unnecessary luxury.
Also, teams can get a productive running back in later rounds or even acquire one after the draft. The Jaguars know this better than anyone, as they signed Robinson as an undrafted free agent last offseason. This is not a knock on Etienne’s talent though, as Jacksonville’s offense will benefit from his explosiveness. What is puzzling is the team’s decision to take a running back in the first round.
The Jaguars could’ve taken a defender at 25 and still land a quality running back such as Michael Carter or Kenny Gainwell in the second or third round. Then again, if Etienne can play, nobody will double-guess the team’s decision. In 2018, the team took defensive tackle Taven Bryan 29th overall and looking back, it was a bad pick because the Florida product can’t play, not because of the position he plays.
The Jaguars have two picks in the second round, the 33rd overall and the 45th overall, and there are still many enticing options available. It will be interesting to see what direction they take after going quarterback and running back in the first round. Will they keep investing in their offense or will they turn their attention to the defense? Can’t wait to see what the Jag’s strategy is on Day 2 of the draft.