Jacksonville Jaguars: Travis Etienne too low in recent rookie RB ranking

Running back Travis Etienne of the Jacksonvile Jaguars (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)
Running back Travis Etienne of the Jacksonvile Jaguars (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union) /

Even though the Jacksonville Jaguars already had a stud in running back James Robinson, they believed Travis Etienne could give their offense a significant boost. Thus, they used the 25th overall selection in this year’s draft on the Clemson product. Although the Jags are excited about Etienne’s potential to become a dual-threat, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports isn’t as high on him as he is on other first-year running backs.

Trapasso wrote about the five rookie running backs who will be most productive in 2021 and the former Tiger popped up at number four, one spot ahead of Javonte Williams and one behind Trey Sermon. Najee Harris and Michael Carter ranked second and first, respectively. He explains there are three reasons why Etienne is low on his list. He points out that the Jaguars will build their offense around quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the passing game even though offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has a “run-heavy history” with the Seattle Seahawks.

Second, Robinson established himself as a top 15 running back in the NFL last season. The Illinois State product totaled 1,414 scrimmage yards, the most by an undrafted rookie in NFL history. He had 86 percent of the Jaguars total carries last season and will still carry most of the load in 2021. Finally, Trapasso believes that Jacksonville’s offensive line may make it difficult for Etienne to have success right off the bat.

The Jacksonville Jaguars expect Travis Etienne to make an impact.

Robinson will start the season as the number-one running back, but Etienne will also have a big role on the offense. He won’t likely rush for 1,000 yards but the Jags envision him becoming a key cog in the passing game. Back at Clemson, he hauled 102 receptions for 1,155 yards and eight touchdowns over a four-year span. Moreover, he averaged 11.3 yards per catch.

In 2020, Robinson caught 49 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns. That number will likely go down as Etienne may be the better receiver of the two. It’s not unrealistic for the 2021 first-round to finish the year with 35 and 40 passes even though he will share the backfield. In his last season at Clemson, he logged 48 receptions for 588 yards and two touchdowns.

You could make a case the Jaguars shouldn’t have drafted Etienne 25th overall earlier this year. They had already Robinson in place and you can always find a good running back in later rounds. Also, using an early-round selection on someone who won’t likely start right off the bat may not be wise. Nevertheless, the team’s brass believe Etienne can help them field a more dynamic offense, and isn’t the whole point of the draft to acquire playmakers that will help you win games?

Etienne won’t have the same kind of role as his fellow rookie running backs but that doesn’t mean he won’t be an important part of the Jacksonville Jaguars offense this upcoming season. He won’t likely become an Offensive Rookie of the Year or rack up 1,000 rushing yards but he will make an instant impact in his first year in the NFL.

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