Arguably the most sought-after position in fantasy football, the elite NFL running backs bring the highest premium come draft day. After surprising the dynasty community by returning to school, Clemson RB Travis Etienne comes into the 2021 dynasty season as one of the most valuable rookies of the class.
Travis Etienne dynasty value for 2021
It feels as if I have been writing about Travis Etienne for a while, and it’s true. We all were looking at him as a member of last year’s class and trying to see how he fit in with the Jonathan Taylors or Chuba Hubbards of the world.
Instead, Travis Etienne went back to Clemson to chase another national championship and prove scouts wrong. It was the right decision for all intents and purposes, as he showed progression in an already-polished skill set.
The 2021 dynasty class of running backs is top-heavy but lacks depth. Travis Etienne sits right at the top and makes his case to be the best of the dynasty rookie class.
He is a shifty rusher who has otherworldly home run speed. If Etienne sees a crease, you will not catch him in the open field. Even though everyone knows of his breakaway ability, Etienne consistently destroys defenders’ angles. Players don’t realize how fast he is (sub-4.4) until it is too late.
In PPR formats, Travis Etienne’s proficiency in the receiving game increases his value immensely. There is a difference between being able to catch the ball and being a receiving weapon. Any RB in the NFL can catch the ball. However, few can be lined up in the “X” like Etienne has shown the ability to do.
At 5’10”, 210 pounds, Travis Etienne is one of the more electrifying players in the 2021 rookie class, and his dynasty value rightly reflects this, too.
Etienne goes down as one of the best RBs in recent history
Etienne played in 12 games for the Tigers, rushing 168 times for 956 yards and 14 touchdowns. We knew the rushing was there. The development in the passing game is what stood out. He caught 48 passes for 588 yards and 2 touchdowns during his senior season.
Travis Etienne finished his collegiate career with 686 rushes for 4,952 yards with 70 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 102 passes for 1,155 and 8 receiving touchdowns in 1,852 career snaps over 55 games.
In addition, Etienne is also the NCAA FBS record holder for most career games scoring 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.
Where should you draft Etienne in dynasty rookie mock drafts?
In 1QB dynasty formats, the argument can be made for Travis Etienne to go with the first overall selection. Everything from the versatility to the explosiveness makes him a special player that would slide directly into the RB2 on any dynasty roster. Personally, I have Najee Harris as the 1.01 this year, but if I can walk away with either player, I feel like my team just became infinitely better.
The 2021 class is not as deep as we saw last year, with six starting-caliber RBs going in the first round of the draft or early second. There might be four in this class, even though I do like Jermar Jefferson, but draft capital is needed. The value is at WR, so I would advise you, if Travis Etienne is on the board, to consider him against any other player not named Najee Harris.
If you are in a Superflex format, a few more players enter the conversation
If you are in a Superflex league, Etienne’s teammate Trevor Lawrence should go first, given his abundant skill and positional scarcity of the format. At the 1.02, things will vary based on team needs. Conventional wisdom would likely be Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, or Najee Harris dominating this spot.
At the 1.03 and 1.04, the remaining players listed will likely be selected unless you are like me and prefer Trey Lance over Wilson, but that is for a different discussion. All of this would push Travis Etienne to the 1.05 in Superflex leagues.
I would recommend being at least in the fifth draft slot with a chance in the sixth spot of drafting Travis Etienne in dynasty. Any further than that, and I believe you are playing with fire.
Historically, RBs like Travis Etienne produce early in their dynasty careers
I brought this up in another article going over Lawrence. The best QB prospects can struggle out of the gate. The learning curve can make even the most polished prospects find difficulty adjusting.
Wide receivers need a lot of things to break their way. Several factors are out of their hands, with situations, schemes, and QB play being such large factors. However, the more we see players like Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk flourish as rookies, the more impatient we become in the dynasty community.
This is where the running back can take his value into his own hands a bit easier. Looking at running backs drafted since 2016, 32 ended their rookie season, averaging 11.23 PPR points or more. Why the 11.23 points? That was the RB24 (J.K. Dobbins) in 2020.
When we thought Travis Etienne was coming out last year, he was in a group of three for the best pass catchers of the class. It was him, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and D’Andre Swift.
Travis Etienne has a solid chance to go as the first running back off the board, well inside of the first round for sure. Given his skill set as both a rusher and receiver, Travis Etienne could quickly become one of the best RBs in dynasty, particularly in PPR formats where a catch vastly outweighs a carry. It would not surprise me that once the 2021 dynasty season wraps up, Travis Etienne is the RB1 of the class.
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