Travis Etienne Scouting Profile
Etienne was a four star recruit out of Jennings, LA, where he attended Jennings High School. He was a highly recruited prospect, having almost nearly twenty schools offer him a scholarship. Those schools included Clemson, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Alabama. Etienne committed to Clemson in February, 2017 enrolling later on in the summer in July. Etienne was the class 3A Offensive MVP as a junior in 2015. He finished his high school career rushing for 3,192 yards with 49 total touchdowns, in which 35 of them came in his senior season. Etienne also played basketball too while attending Jennings High, but, it was clear, football was his future.
Etienne contributed immediately as a freshman for Clemson when he enrolled in 2017. He split carries with Tavien Feaster, rushing for 733 yards - which was good for 11th in the nation. He also led the ACC his freshman year in rush yards per attempt at 7.2. Etienne broke out as a sophomore for the Tigers in 2018, rushing for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns, which the led the nation. In addition to his breakout season, he helped lead Clemson to their 3rd national championship in 2018, defeating Alabama in a blowout win, 44-16. In 2019, he picked up where he left off, rushing for 1,614 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also improved as a receiver, catching 37 passes with 4 scores. And again, he helped lead Clemson to the national title game, where they fell to Joe Burrow and LSU. After much anticipation, Etienne decided to return to school for his senior season in 2020 for one last crack at a national title. He has played in three games thus far.
The thing that stands out with Etienne is his elite burst at the line of scrimmage. Along with that, he might have the best contact balance of any RB in the nation. Etienne routinely breaks tackles and runs through arm tackles. He plays a lot bigger than his size, but his explosiveness into the second level and ability to run away from defenders is special. Etienne also has great patience to allow his blockers to open up holes and wait for the play to develop. Once it does, he hits a second gear like no other running back you'll see. Etienne improved greatly as a receiver from 2018 to 2019, elevating his stock as a three down back at the next level. However, the one weakness he appears to possess is pass protection. There were a few plays where he lacked technique or missed an assignment. He will need to improve that at the next level if he wishes to truly be a three down back.
Overall Grade and Film Breakdown
(Note: all scores/ratings are based on personal opinion)
Etienne's best strength is his burst/explosiveness through the line of scrimmage. Only a tick below is his contact balance, followed by his patience and vision. However, all three are elite and put him in the conversation as the RB1 of this class. In every game studied, Etienne rarely went down on first contact, running with force through the arm tackles and lowering his shoulder into the defender. There's a reason Clemson fed him and continues too - because he has a god given ability to make plays. As I mentioned before, Etienne really developed his pass catching skills from 2018 to 2019 and it showed last year, along with in the early part of this year. His footwork is solid when running routes and appears that he can run all of the routes you'd want to see out of your running back.
Etienne will need to improve in his pass protection at the next level if he wants to make an impact and be a true three down back. Despite that, he still has the ability to be an organization's RB1, and, with the proper coaching, this can become a true strength and make him an all-around running back. Etienne also doesn't possess the elusiveness in the open field the way Chuba Hubbard does. Etienne would rather run through you then around. Below are two clips I found that are good examples of his deficiencies in pass protection:
In the top clip, Etienne allows the defender to give him a pop right into the chest, throwing him off balance. He doesn't even bother to try and set his feet and deliver a blow, almost looking uninterested in protecting Lawrence. In the bottom one, his feet are off balance and cross over each other and gets too much depth upfield and takes a poor angle to the cornerback. The good thing is, this can all be coached with technique, repetition, and film study.
Speed: Etienne received a 90 speed score. Etienne will not outrun defenders the way Hubbard can, but he has undervalued open field speed and uses his explosiveness/burst to run away from defenders.
In this play above, the first thing you see his strength and then burst through line of scrimmage once he sees the hole. He breaks a couple of tackles, but once he gets to open field, he is caught by two defenders. He doesn't have particularly breakaway speed, but it is enough to make plays when the ball is in his hands.
Contact Balance: I gave Etienne a 97 contact balance score. It was very rare to see him brought down on the first tackle and almost consistently bounced off defenders to keep his balance and gain extra yardage.
This is an unbelievable run to bounce off three defenders behind the sticks, spin, and then take it to the house. This is an elite trait and showed up on film a lot. Defenders cannot arm tackle this young man. Good form tackling and wrapping up is the best way to bring him to the ground.
Strength: Etienne received a 95 strength score. He possesses exceptional lower body strength to drag defenders for additional yardage that can totally break a defense in short yardage situations when trying to get a stop.
This is a zone read play. Once Etienne hits the hole, he stiffs arm the defender and then carries him on his back for an additional twelve yards. A good example of elite lower and upper body strength that separates the good from the great.
Patience/Vision: Etienne received a 96 score for patience/vision. He often allowed the play to develop, staying under control with a low center of gravity and allowed the lineman to execute their blocks to open up running lanes for him.
The play above is more indicative of his vision then patience. This is well blocked up front, so Etienne has a huge hole to run but he sees the defensive back fill and then breaks outside to get to the edge and get the first down. Great anticipation and vision to see room to run near the sideline.
Catching: Etienne received a 91 catching score. As I mentioned before, this is a skill he improved upon from his sophomore year to his junior year. It is not his best trait, but he has become adept to catching the football and can turn a short screen pass into a big play or touchdown.
Here are two plays that show is his catching ability. The first one(on the left) is against Ohio State in the playoff game last year. This play completely swung momentum in favor of Etienne and they never looked back. The second one is another screen pass that he takes for a big gain. In both plays, you see his explosiveness stand out when he makes the first man miss. If he can sprinkle in some routes out of the backfield too other than designed screens, he can be a nightmare for opposing NFL defenses.
So much anticipation occurred earlier this year regarding Etienne's decision to either stay in school or enter the NFL draft. The 2020 RB class has already been considered one of the most elite groups of prospects we've seen in quite some time and the next wave of great dynasty assets. Etienne was considered to be one of the best, and, some believe, would've slotted in somewhere between the rookie RB2-RB4; maybe even as the RB1 in front of Jonathan Taylor. Yes, Etienne is that good. Ultimately, he decided to return to school and play out his senior year for the Tigers. Whether it is the right decision or not, Etienne has a bright future at the next level. He has all the tools of a franchise running back and will be a late day one, early day two pick. With his elite contact balance, strength, and ability as a receiver, Etienne will be an immediate contributor day one in the NFL if he's drafted to the right situation. Even if he is drafted by a team with an already-established starter, he will find a role on game day.
I have Etienne as the RB1 of the 2021 class. He is a top two pick in non-superflex dynasty rookie drafts, a top four selection in superflex next spring/summer and a cornerstone to build around your team. Etienne projects long-term as an every-week RB1 and an elite dynasty asset for the next 4-5 years.