The Future: 2021 NFL Draft Prospects Travis Etienne
Travis Etienne is 1 of the 2 best running backs in this class. I think of him and Najee Harris as a 1A and a 1B in terms of ranking them. Etienne is the more explosive back of the 2 and he reminds me a little bit of Alvin Kamara in the way he runs. Etienne is simple really hard to get to the ground and can produce a big play any time the ball is in his hands. I personally don't believe in taking running backs in the 1st round but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets taken somewhere towards the end of the 1st especially since he is a 1st round talent. He is the ACC record holder for most rushing touchdowns and has put up absurd numbers over the last 4 years. Below I will touch on 5 traits and how well Etienne is at each of those traits. They will be his vision/ability to create, his burst, finish/yards after contact (YAC), how well he can perform in the passing game, and lastly his ball security and pass blocking.
Vision/Create- Etienne's vision is very good. He sees plays developing very well and finds holes in the defense with ease. In terms of his ability to create, he is electric. His speed and acceleration allow him to bounce runs to the outside when there is nothing up the middle. He can create something out of nothing which can be seen in one of his touchdown runs against Miami. The middle was clogged up with nowhere to go and Etienne was able to bounce it outside and get into the endzone. He can also create in the open field where he can make defenders miss as well as break tackles. His contact balance is elite as he runs through tackles and is very difficult to bring down. In terms of his vision, he isn't the most patient runner and can rush to try to get yards when sometimes he needs to allow his blocks to create for him. He does rely on his speed too much at times and strictly tries to win foot races when there are better lanes to take.
Burst- Etienne's burst is elite. His ability to explode through holes and get to his top speed is what makes him so good. He destroys defender's angles with his acceleration and speed. This is where he reminds me of Kamara because both of them are able to get to full speed very quickly. Etienne has shown that he can consistently separate from all defenders, regardless of what level of defense they play on. He is a blur once he explodes through the hole.
Finish/YAC- at 5'10, 210lbs you wouldn't expect Etienne to be a back who can finish and create yards after contact but Etienne is very good at it. This is more so due to his contact balance than his pure power but he brings a lot of strength behind his pads to run through defenders and create yards. He has shown that he is far from afraid of contact and just as willing to run through defenders at the goal line as he is willing to run around them with his speed. His speed/power combination is elite and to touch on his contact balance more, he breaks arm tackles to the point where it seems like he is covered in something to make him slippery. He always keeps his feet moving and fights for every yard after contact.
Passing game- In 2019 he improved his receiving ability from 2018 and he did it yet again so far through the 2020 season where he has racked up 41 catches in just 10 games. He isn't as natural of a pass catcher as Kamara is but he is very comfortable out of the backfield. I wouldn't line him up as a receiver like Kamara but he will excel in the screens and designed running back pass plays like Kamara since he is such a threat with the ball in his hands in the open field. If you look at the national semifinal against Ohio State in 2020 you will see just how dangerous and electric he can be when taking a screen pass or a shallow pass.
Blocking/Ball Security- His ball security has not been a problem up until this year where he has 2 fumbles, both taken back for touchdowns, and both without Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. I think they were both due to mishandled handoffs/pitches between him and DJ Uiagalelei and due to a lack of chemistry. In pass protection, he is willing to put his body on the line and be physical by meeting defenders in the hole instead of letting them attack him. He can be sloppy with his technique and diagnoses which can improve at the next level with better communication and film study. Since he is willing to be physical with pass rushers and blitzers this can improve.