Dynasty Dilemma: Travis Etienne
What are we doing with Travis Etienne? Well, on the surface, Etienne may look like a lock to bring you three or more years of peak top 10 fantasy running back production. Travis Etienne is a first round selection, and the 25th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Previously, Etienne had a decorated college career at Clemson University. In 2019, he rushed for 1,614 yards. During his senior year in 2020, Etienne focused on improving his receiving game by totaling 48 receptions for 588 yards. Both were, and continue to be, single season running back records for Clemson. To add to this, he’s coming off an impressive first year in the NFL, in which he rushed for 5 touchdowns, 1125 yards, and added another 316 yards through the air. All of this would suggest your desired outcome on the horizon, would it not? The Jaguars, however, made some intriguing moves this offseason to indicate that they might have different plans for Etienne, and all of us dynasty managers. This offseason has produced many storylines in the fantasy football community, but maybe none as controversial as the Travis Etienne topic. No matter where you stand on this, I am going to help you navigate through this complicated process. Is Travis Etienne truly the elite dynasty asset he is being ranked as? Let’s dive in.
REASON TO BUY
Big Play Ability
There is nothing like watching your stud running back break off a week winning run to help you clinch the week. Well, if you were a Travis Etienne owner last year, it happened quite a bit. Remember that 62-yard td run against the Texans in week 17? Etienne is a big play waiting to happen due to the fascinating medley of his size, speed and burst. That run won a lot of fantasy managers championships last year.
Etienne undoubtedly and consistently capitalized on play opportunities last season as a runner. He was very efficient as a runner ranking in the top 12 in the following important rushing metrics; Yards Per Carry (4th), Rushing Yards Over Expectation (3rd), Broken Tackle %(11th), Yards per Touch (10th), and Breakaway Run Rate (12th). These are impressive stats coming from a young running back’s first year in the league. These numbers could have looked even better had Etienne been handed the keys to the backfield prior to week 5. Fantasy managers were excited for his future when the Jaguars decided to part ways with the undrafted rookie darling and starting running back James Robinson. That is when we were able to see Etienne’s efficiency as a runner.
REASON TO SELL
Now that you’re salivating over him, it’s time to reign you in a little and give you some cooling facts about the clouded destiny of Travis Etienne.
Etienne’s Role with the Team
There were some gaps in Etienne’s game that surely alarmed Pederson and his staff. Etienne struggled with pass blocking last season illustrated by giving up the 3rd most pressures out of the qualifying running backs. He ranked 17th in pass blocking grade last year (Player Profiler). This is an abhorrent statistic for a potential workhorse back. If the Jaguars want to keep pace with the Juggernauts of the AFC, this number would need to improve immediately.
It’s worth noting that Etienne was allocated the Lion’s share of red zone work for the Jaguars, ranking 9th in red zone opportunities and 5th in rushes inside the 10 yard line. One would think these outcomes would translate into fantasy gold, however it only turned into 4 red zone touchdowns for the year. Unfortunately, this is not a great conversion rate in the most important part of the field.
Finally, Tank Bigbsy’s arrival decidedly clouded the backfield even further. Bigsby is 6’0 and 210 pounds who consistently proves to be a true power up the middle runner with great hands. These are invaluable skills to have in the red zone. Did I mention Bigsby can pass protect? Whether you want to accept it or not, Tank will inevitably take on some of Etienne’s workload. I envision Bigsby coming in on 3rd down and also taking some, if not all, of the goal line work. I would also predict that Bigsby would get the odd series to spell Etienne. Factoring all of this in, it will be hard to see Etienne get the same assignments he got in 2022.
Urban Meyer vs. Doug Pederson
Early on, the future looked bright for the Jaguars heading into the 2021 season. The team had a new head coach, their franchise quarterback secured, and had drafted their RB1. It all came to a standstill, however, when Etienne suffered a season-ending lisfranc foot injury during training camp in his rookie season. Thirteen games into his first season as head coach, Urban Meyer and his regime came to a crashing halt. Etienne never played a regular season snap for Urban Meyer. Subsequently, in came Doug Pederson as a Superbowl winning pedigree coach known for his use of RBBC. The red flags are everywhere now with the addition of Tank Bigbsy. Etienne’s game as an every down workhorse back is clearly in peril.
Above all, Etienne was touted as a great pass catcher, and his stats from his senior year at Clemson proved it. He also did well when given the role as a pass catcher last year with an above average 9 YPC. The problem, however, is his 7.8% target share. Some people might think that his target share will only go up, but I find that hard to believe for many factors. First of all, the Jaguars extended Evan Engram this offseason by investing heavily in him. The Jaguars also brought in Calvin Ridley, who commands a 25% career target share. This WR room is talented, and Ridley only adds to the target competition. Last but not least, is the fact that Trevor Lawrence isn’t a check-down quarterback ranking in the top 10 of QB’s who checked-down the least in 2022. All this to say, that it will take a lot of positive things bouncing Etienne’s way for his target share to actually increase.
At this stage of the game, Etienne is being drafted in dynasty startups around the RB10. He finished last year as the RB18. At this stage, we are drafting Etienne at his ceiling, which is a rich price when we consider all of these variables. I would be comfortable having Etienne on my dynasty team as a RB2, but we are drafting him as a RB1. The talent is there, but without some new advantageous breaks, I can’t see him return the value as a true RB1. At this stage and in my opinion, I am viewing Etienne as a high end RB2 with low end RB1 potential. Hopefully, there is a league mate in your alliance that still views Etienne as an elite RB1 so that you can upgrade him into a true elite fantasy asset before it’s too late.
Mike Lindberg has been playing fantasy football since 2008. He specializes in Dynasty, Keeper and Redraft leagues.
He spends a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, and mock drafting in order to give you the best fantasy advice possible.
His DM’s are open so don’t hesitate to give him a follow on Twitter @FFCanuck99
Let’s go win some championships!