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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: RB Travis Etienne

  • The Draft Network
  • December 19, 2020
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Clemson running back Travis Etienne enters the NFL after a productive college career that resulted in him being the ACC’s all-time leading rusher. His burst and contact balance make him a big-play back that is capable of taking it the distance from any part of the field. While he’s an explosive back, Etienne is disciplined and doesn’t try to do too much and put his team in bad positions. He’s grown wonderfully as a receiver and is a nightmare matchup for linebackers in coverage. The primary area of concern for Etienne is inconsistent results in pass protection. His tape reveals too many instances where he is tardy to diagnose pressure schemes and lacks the technique needed to consistently execute blocks in pass protection. While his vision is sufficient, there are times when he can become too eager pressing the line of scrimmage where more patience and anticipation are needed to maximize his touches. Overall, the grips with Etienne’s game are minor and he has the upside to become one of the NFL’s most dangerous offensive weapons. 

Ideal Role: Featured running back that gets plenty of chances to attack the edges and contribute as a receiver out of the backfield.  

Scheme Fit: Etienne is a scheme-transcendent back.


Written by Joe Marino

Games watched: Florida State (2019), North Carolina (2019), Ohio State (2019), South Carolina (2019), Texas A&M (2019), Boston College (2019), Wake Forest (2020), Virginia (2020), Notre Dame (2020), Miami (2020) 

Best Game Studied: Miami (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Virginia (2020)

Vision: Etienne mostly has sound vision and makes good decisions with the football, but he doesn’t always showcase the most natural feel for anticipating space. He can be too eager pressing the line of scrimmage, needing to showcase more patience and technique to manipulate the second level while making his blocks right. While he has his share of dazzling runs where he makes defenders look silly, there are times when he gets loose in space and his only plan with the football is to outrun the defense—and appears absent of a plan when challenged. 

Footwork: Etienne’s feet are always busy and he runs like they are on fire. He operates from a balanced base and has terrific control of his frame, especially for a back of his style. His burst and acceleration are game-changing traits. Etienne mostly illustrates good timing with his cuts and shows terrific balance stringing together moves. 

Contact Balance: Etienne absorbs contact extremely well and frequently wiggles out of tackles. His success after contact can be attributed to his ability to set up the tackler and make it difficult for them to get squared up. He simply offers very little surface area for defenders to address when making tackle attempts.   

Durability: Etienne has been a proven workhorse for Clemson, collecting more than 6,000 yards from scrimmage and 77 touchdowns across four seasons. His consistency at Clemson is admirable, but he certainly enters the NFL with a fairly significant amount of mileage on his tires. Etienne is the ACC’s all-time leading rusher and managed to avoid any significant collegiate injuries.   

Explosiveness: Etienne has game-changing big-play ability because of how explosive he is. It’s incredible how quickly he can get to his top speed. His burst and acceleration are elite traits that routinely lead to broken pursuit angles and massive chunks of yardage.  

Versatility: Etienne brings a lot to the table as a ball carrier and receiver out of the backfield, but his inconsistency in pass protection limits his ability to produce on passing downs. Clemson has occasionally given him chances to return kicks and he has one career punt return. Etienne is scheme-versatile, although he is at his best when attacking the edges and perimeter of the defense.  

Elusiveness: For as explosive and shifty as Etienne is, I appreciate how compact his running style is. He is fully capable of executing dynamic cuts where his feet catch well outside his frame, illustrating loose hips with plenty of twitch and wiggle. His elusiveness truly shines when weaving through tight spaces between the tackles and when creating for himself in space as a receiver. 

Ball Security: Etienne doesn’t have fumbling issues but he isn’t immune to fumbles either. He averages more than 100 touches between fumbles for his career. He prioritizes clean handling of the football, but there have been exchange issues at the mesh point from time to time.  

Passing Down Skills: After some struggles in 2017 and 2018, Etienne demonstrated significant growth as a receiver in 2019 and 2020, turning a weakness into a strength. He’s a dynamic route-runner that is a major challenge for linebackers to keep in phase with as he accelerates out of breaks. While he will suffer an occasional drop, Etienne has showcased reliable hands as he’s gained confidence over the last two seasons. Etienne is physical in pass protection but he has considerable room to improve. He is often late to diagnose pressure schemes and his technique is sloppy taking on contact with too many instances of hasty cut attempts. He needs to be more consistent in understanding where he needs to help, getting square, leveraging his hips, and activating his hands. 

Discipline: For as explosive and shifty as Etienne is, I appreciate his willingness to stay the course and not try to do too much as a ball carrier. He isn’t quick to abandon the play design to sneak into side doors and force runs to the perimeter. There aren’t instances where he tries to get too cute and his team has to accept a negative play. 

Prospect Comparison: Alvin Kamara (2017 NFL Draft, New Orleans Saints) 


TDN Consensus: 84.50/100

Joe Marino: 84.00/100

Kyle Crabbs: 86.00/100

Jordan Reid: 84.00/100

Drae Harris: 84.00/100

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