Travis Etienne is the best running back prospect the 2021 class has to offer. Due to positional scarcity and the lack of top-end fantasy producers at the running back position, Etienne has to be the selection at the rookie 1.01 in 1QB dynasty leagues. With a pre-draft Breakout Rating of 78.5, a top 20 all-time score, Etienne is the clear RB1. Lets jump into the reasons why.
Travis Etienne checks every box to be a top 10 dynasty running back. On March 11th, Etienne weighed in at the Clemson Pro Day at 215-pounds and ran a 4.50 (78th-percentile among qualified running backs) 40-yard Dash. He posted a 104.9 (80th-percentile) Speed Score to check the last remaining box on his profile, solidifying his place as the top fantasy prospect in the 2021 class.
To be an elite fantasy producer at the next level, running backs generally need to show the ability to command targets out of the backfield, produce in back-to-back seasons, measure in with workhorse size, boast an upper-percentile Speed Score, and come into the National Football League with significant draft capital.
Over his career, Travis Etienne showed that he is a threat out of the backfield, posting seasons with 37 and 48 receptions. Etienne’s 12.2-percent (86th-percentile) College Target Share is comparable to James White (12.1-percent, 86th-percentile) and Antonio Gibson (12.7-percent, 88th-percentile). Both are thought of as elite pass-catching backs, and Etienne’s college profile shows he belongs in that conversation as well.
Introducing Etienne’s height, weight, and Speed Score into the mix alongside his College Target Share makes him comparable to an interesting set of running backs. However, this set of comparisons includes many players that were not particularly productive at the college level.
Travis Etienne has shown his football acumen as a runner over his career. He logged over 1,600 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons at ages 20 and 21, scoring a total of 49 touchdowns over those two seasons. And he was efficient doing it, putting up a 6.6 (87th-percentile) College YPC mark.
His elite production allows for a more precise set of comparisons to be made for his workhorse ability in the National Football League.
Filtering by players who have put up multiple 1,000-yard scrimmage seasons leaves Etienne in elite company. He obviously is not Saquon Barkley, and does not have the top end speed to be DeMarco Murray, but this set of players represents the three-down workhorse ability that jumps out from his profile.
This composite is not to say that Travis Etienne is particularly comparable to these players in any way other than his workhorse ability. The three backs on the previous list to not command a workhorse role in the NFL are James Starks, Elijah McGuire, and Jay Ajayi – all players that did not receive significant draft capital. It is safe to assume that Etienne will receive at least second round draft capital, making him a projected workhorse at the next level.
Couple elite college production and workhorse ability with an athletic profile best comparable to that of Miles Sanders, Marlon Mack, Dalvin Cook, and D’Andre Swift, and Etienne’s profile checks all the boxes of an elite fantasy asset.
Don’t let a senior season, which was a down year only by the elite standards that Etienne had set for himself, convince you to fade the best running back in the 2021 class. He has the most complete profile in the 2021 class and needs to be going at the 1.01 in single QB rookie drafts.
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