Devy Prospects: Travis Etienne
College: Clemson University
Position: Running Back
Height: 5’ 10”
“Don’t worry, NEXT years running back class is stacked” is a sentiment most dynasty & devy players have gotten used to over the years. The promise of jam tomorrow is about as familiar a refrain as you hear in dynasty fantasy football. Often by the time November has rolled around half the prospects have disappeared off the radar, and another quarter have dropped way down draft boards; that’s before you even consider that at least 1 or 2 of the top prospects will suffer an injury significant enough to cast doubt on their long-term prospects.
This year though there may just be justification for the optimism surrounding the potential 2020 crop of backs. A core of three superior talents is shaping up to give owners every reason to fight over the top few picks in next year’s rookie drafts.
At the top of that triumvirate for me is Clemson’s Travis Etienne. The Junior enters his third season for the Tigers as a Heisman contender and someone very much in the mix as a potential first round pick when the NFL draft reaches Cleveland next April.
Coming off a record-breaking sophomore season Etienne has a skill set that will intrigue NFL scout and General Managers. His production is not in doubt, after a highly productive rotational role as a freshman the 20-year-old exploded last season for 1658 yards on 204 carries but it’s his skill set that makes him such an intriguing Devy prospect.
Nothing excites NFL scouts like speed does and Etienne is lightening quick. His burst, acceleration and stamina are elite, don’t be distracted by people pointing to light boxes and big holes – you can’t fake this kind of explosion. Couple that with his ability to maintain balance after contact and you’ve got an extremely potent combination and a skill set that fits perfectly in today’s NFL.
On top of explosive speed, the Tigers lead back has shown a willingness to put his shoulder down and ground out tough yards despite being somewhat undersized for a power back. He demonstrates a willingness to find contact and drive the pile when it’s necessary making an even more attractive option as a three down back.
Sceptics point to Etienne’s size, upright running style and question his pass blocking but I don’t see either as particular barriers to his success. The running style may lend itself to an increased injury risk, but it looks like his frame could comfortably add 10 lbs without impacting his explosiveness – that would make him much more durable at the next level. It will also help keep him on the field on 1st down.
The pass blocking questions are interesting, he’s certainly had some challenges but has also demonstrated decent technique and a willingness to block when needed. That willingness bodes extremely well for his chances of becoming competent in pass pro – a necessity if he’s to fulfil his full potential on Sundays.
All in it’s tough not to be excited by Etienne. He enters the season as my number one running back prospect, he’ll have a fight on his hands to retain that as the gap from him to Georgia’s D’Andre Swift is slight but right now I think there is every chance that when draft time roles around next April that Travis Etienne will be the 1.01.