Although their record on the field may not reflect this in 2022, the Jacksonville Jaguars should have several fantasy-relevant players you’ll find in starting lineups. Jacksonville’s backfield consists of intriguing options such as Travis Etienne, James Robinson, and Snoop Conner, but which Jaguars RB should you draft in fantasy football this season?
Travis Etienne is a fantasy breakout candidate in 2022
Talk to nearly every fantasy analyst out there, and they’ll say Etienne is a breakout candidate in 2022. Do you know what? I think they are on to something.
Etienne is a shifty rusher who has home-run speed. If he sees a crease, you will not catch him in the open field. Even though everyone knows about his breakaway ability, Etienne consistently destroys defenders’ angles as DBs don’t realize how fast he is (sub-4.5) until it is too late.
He was also dominant in college, which was the last time we saw Etienne on the field. In 2020, he played 12 games for the Clemson Tigers, rushing 168 times for 956 yards and 14 touchdowns. His development in the passing game is what stood out. Etienne caught 48 passes for 588 yards and two touchdowns during his senior season and ended his career with 102 receptions.
In addition, Etienne is also the NCAA FBS record holder for most career games with a touchdown (46 of his 55 career games). He is one of only 12 players in FBS history with 4,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career receiving yards.
Etienne made his name was explosive plays. While at Clemson, he led the NCAA with 55 runs of 20+ yards during his four years (2017-2020). On those explosive plays, he scored 21 TDs and rushed for 2,053 yards, averaging 37.3 yards per carry. Etienne also had six receptions of 30 or more yards, giving him 61 explosive plays. Since 2020, the Jaguars have just 31 explosive plays of 20 yards or more (last in the NFL).
Now a full year removed from the foot injury that cost him his rookie season, Etienne is expected to be one of the NFL’s busiest backs in the passing game. That’s a quality fantasy managers desperately search for in PPR formats, as a target is worth roughly three times the value of a run on a per-touch basis.
Is James Robinson one of the best draft day discounts you can find?
Over the last two seasons, there haven’t been many better stories than Robinson. A 2020 UDFA from Illinois State, Robinson became the fourth undrafted player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards (1,070) in their rookie season. Despite catching 60 passes and finishing as the RB7, Robinson came into 2021 facing new competition because, well, Urban Meyer.
With Etienne out for the year, Robinson had a clear path to repeat his excellent 2020 production. However, that never happened as Meyer couldn’t figure out how he wanted to use Robinson. Despite the RB24 finish, Robinson saw his touches vary from two to 21 depending on the week and mood of Meyer.
However, when he did receive touches, Robinson was efficient, finishing 11th in yards after contact per attempt (3.3) and tied for ninth in red-zone touchdowns (eight). In the 10 games where Robinson saw double-digit touches, he averaged 15.3 carries, 75.7 yards, 0.88 TDs, 3.7 targets, 2.9 receptions, 18.3 yards, and 17.4 PPR/game. That’s a 17-game pace of 309 touches, 1,599 yards, and 15 touchdowns.
After suffering a torn Achilles in December, Robinson faces an uphill battle. However, while there are no guarantees, Robinson looks good in training camp and appears to have his burst back after missing OTAs. I do expect the Jaguars to ease Robinson back into the flow of things, but under Doug Pederson, Robinson will have a role in this committee approach.
There is a very good chance Robinson is being undervalued at the moment, and at cost (RB42), he is the Jaguars running back fantasy managers should target.
Will Snoop Conner be the rookie RB to draft in 2022?
Pederson has shown us he prefers to use a committee in the backfield. Go back to his time with the Eagles, and he always seemed to use a rotation of players who specialized in certain roles. He’d have a first and second-down rusher who can break one. Then an RB who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Lastly, someone who can punch the ball in on goal-to-go carries or move the chains on third-and-short.
He has that in Jacksonville. Robinson on early downs (assuming health), Etienne the receiving specialist, and Conner as the battering ram. At 5’10” and 222 pounds, Conner can bring some thump between the tackles, but he has enough speed to hit the second level (4.59 40-yard dash). Conner had a nose for the end zone in college, scoring 26 touchdowns in his three years at Ole Miss. He also picked up 1,580 yards on 304 rushing attempts and averaged 5.2 yards per carry inside a committee with Jerrion Ealy, Henry Parrish Jr., and QB Matt Corral.
As a one-cut runner, Conner will play a role in Jacksonville similar to what he did in college as a short-area back. That’s a significant job in most offenses and one that fantasy managers should target. The more high-leverage carries you can find, the more chances for blow-up fantasy weeks. The concern for Conner is those carries could be few and far between in an offense that could struggle for goal-line chances. But if this offense is better than expected in Trevor Lawrence’s second year, Conner carries sneaky great value as the only RB on the roster not carrying a red injury flag into the season.
Should I draft James Robinson, Travis Etienne, or Snoop Conner in fantasy?
As training camps continue to push closer to the start of the preseason, average draft position (ADP) trends are getting closer to what you’ll likely see on draft day in your league. Currently, Etienne leads the Jaguars’ RBs with an ADP of 45.7 (RB21), followed by Robinson at 119.7 (RB42) and Conner at 291.5 (RB81).
For upcoming drafts, I would only be targeting Etienne or Robinson. While Conner should have a role, he is too dependent on red-zone carries to find value, and there is no guarantee the Jaguars won’t use Etienne or Robinson in this same role. After all, Robinson does have 15 touchdowns on his résumé, with 13 coming on carries inside the 10-yard line and 10 inside the five. If Conner does indeed have this role — or Robinson/Etienne suffers a setback — he would be worth adding. Just don’t use a roster spot on draft day.
When it comes to whether fantasy managers should draft Etienne or Robinson, we have to look at value and how high Etienne’s ADP rises. With hype and expectations come overvalued draft picks as managers try to outfox others in their league. As the RB21, Etienne is still a good value as a low-end RB2. But if he gets into the RB17+ range, then I might be cautious on Etienne, as he must be as good as we hope to pay off this ADP.
Robinson is likely to be the best value of all. As the RB42, Robinson can only go up. He is going in the same range as Alexander Mattison, Tyler Boyd, Michael Gallup, Cole Kmet, and Albert Okwuegbunam. In contrast, Etienne is being selected around DK Metcalf, DJ Moore, Lamar Jackson, Courtland Sutton, Michael Pittman Jr., and Jaylen Waddle. The opportunity cost is significantly higher for Etienne, but Robinson does have a higher risk due to his injury.
I’m usually targeting wide receivers in the range where Etienne comes off the board, so it’s difficult for me to select him. However, if you believe in Etienne’s pending breakout, he is still a decent value and worth a shot in PPR formats. Just realize Robinson is likely the better value when considering talent, role, and the players around him in fantasy drafts.