Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne is a bit of an unknown entering the 2022 season. Following a lost rookie season, there are several factors dynasty managers need to wade through when trying to value Etienne. So, how should dynasty fantasy football managers value Etienne going forward?
Travis Etienne’s dynasty profile for 2022
It’s rare to be analyzing the value of a second-year player without any NFL data to work with. Yet, here we are with Etienne.
At Clemson, Etienne’s production improved each of his first three seasons. It dropped off a bit in his senior year, but it was also the 2020 COVID-shortened season, so anything from that year must be taken in proper context.
In his sophomore and junior seasons, Etienne proved he can be a workhorse back, toting the rock 200+ times for over 1,600 rushing yards. He also excelled as a pass catcher, seeing his target share increase every year at college, culminating in a high of 12.2% as a senior.
At 5’10”, 215 pounds, Etienne is built for a three-down role. He also possesses well above-average speed and athleticism.
How does Etienne’s injury impact his dynasty value in 2022?
Now, for the bad. Etienne missed his entire rookie season due to a preseason Lisfranc fracture. It’s one of the more severe injuries a player can sustain. The good news, if there is any, is it occurred in August and Etienne is still very young, which helps his recovery.
In January, Etienne said he could have returned toward the end of the 2021 season. He obviously would not have been 100%, but if the Jaguars were in contention for a playoff spot (or made the postseason), Etienne likely would have played. That’s very encouraging news.
It may seem worrisome that Etienne described himself as only around 80-85% in a mid-February interview. However, it was February. He expressed confidence he’d be ready to go by training camp. New head coach Doug Pederson went a step further and said he expects Etienne to be at OTAs.
As long as there are no setbacks, dynasty managers should feel confident in the health of Etienne’s foot as the Jaguars will be extra cautious with their young running back.
Fantasy projection for Etienne
There are a couple of moving parts we need to figure out in order to properly value Etienne. At this point, we’ll never know what Etienne’s role as a rookie might have been. James Robinson was coming off a 1,000-yard season where he averaged 17.9 PPR fantasy points per game, good for an overall RB5 finish (minimum eight games played).
It’s unlikely Etienne would’ve completely taken over the Jaguars’ backfield. At the same time, Robinson is a former UDFA, while Etienne was a first-round pick. Fair or not, that matters, and it will matter in 2022 as well.
Robinson played well once again, proving to be a back capable of playing on all three downs. Although he only averaged 12.7 ppg, it’s really hard to assess the ability of any player on the 2021 Jaguars as Urban Meyer is the most incompetent head coach to ever step on an NFL sideline. It may end up being a good thing Etienne didn’t have to endure a rookie season under Meyer.
How much does James Robinson hinder Etienne?
What we can take away from Robinson’s performance is that the Jaguars running back position is valuable in fantasy even if their offense is inept. With Trevor Lawrence entering his second season and a Super Bowl-winning head coach in control, there’s reason for optimism.
We also have the matter of Robinson’s injury. Robinson tore his Achilles in late December of the 2021 season. He should be ready for the start of the 2022 campaign, but as we saw with Cam Akers, the athleticism doesn’t always return right away.
Robinson is going to miss OTAs and possibly all of training camp. Etienne, meanwhile, will be there building rapport with his teammates and learning the new offense.
As Lawrence’s college teammate at Clemson, the writing is on the wall here. Pederson is not going to force Etienne onto the field if he’s ineffective, but the second-year player profiles as a good running back. I expect him to be atop this depth chart and command the majority of touches in this backfield.
What is Etienne’s future beyond 2022?
There’s not much to discuss regarding Etienne’s long-term future in the NFL. He’s just 23 years old, and, for all intents and purposes, 2022 will be his first NFL season.
Etienne will be a focal point of the Jaguars’ offense as long as he plays well, which I expect to happen. Even if the Jaguars are still a bad team, we’ve seen running backs, particularly receiving backs, thrive in fantasy football off of their receptions. Etienne is a real threat to push 100 targets and is tethered to a young quarterback pegged with the “generation talent” label. There are no concerns about Etienne’s future.
What can fantasy managers expect from Etienne?
This requires a bit of projecting, but hey, that’s what we do. I expect Etienne to be fully healthy by the time training camp rolls around. UDFAs are historically not treated well by NFL teams, regardless of how well they play. Just look at Phillip Lindsay, who started his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Yet, he was quickly cast aside when a perceived better option came along.
First-round picks have an inherent advantage, and it’s not like Etienne is just a first-round pick — he’s actually good at football. I expect him to be the lead back and, most importantly, the primary receiving back on a team devoid of receiving weapons. And before you exclaim, “But Laviska Shenault!” Yes, I am aware Shenault exists. No, he is not a weapon. It would not shock me if Etienne is second on this team in targets behind Christian Kirk.
Concerns over the Jaguars’ offense, Etienne’s foot, and Robinson’s performance have combined to depress Etienne’s dynasty value from his rookie season. It may very well rebound as the offseason progresses, but now is the time to strike if you want Etienne. And I want Etienne.
I buy Etienne as a back that will share early-down duties while dominating passing-down work for the foreseeable future. He also has the upside to be a three-down back. He should at least be a mid-RB2 and has RB1 upside if he handles goal-line work and the Jaguars improve offensively. There are risks, but I believe the reward outweighs them.