The Jacksonville Jaguars’ above-average backfield remains a shining beacon of hope. As Trevor Lawrence continues acclimating to the NFL, and as the franchise assesses roster-rebuilding priorities, James Robinson and Travis Etienne are expected to help fantasy football managers in 2022.
With Jaguars GM Trent Baalke saying Etienne is ahead of his recovery schedule at the NFL Combine, the focus returns to this RB core. The question is, how much should we invest in Etienne and Robinson on draft day given that they are both recovering from injury?
Travis Etienne’s 2022 fantasy outlook
For a team that both conquered the Bills and also ended the Colts’ playoff hopes, the Jaguars endured one of the worst NFL campaigns in recent memory. Sure, there have been worse teams. But between the Urban Meyer disaster and the early injury exits of two of the team’s top four playmakers, it was a season to forget.
Etienne’s Lisfranc injury in the team’s second preseason game was the first of several catastrophes to befall the Jags. He earned only 2 inconsequential touches in that game — inconsequential for most players, but seemingly useful for a high-value rookie preparing for a meaningful regular-season role. Instead, foot surgery knocked him out for the season.
A promising recovery
Fortunately, the 23-year-old appears poised to return for OTAs and should be ready to roll in Week 1, barring any unforeseen setbacks. Last summer, Meyer began hyping him as a potential third-down back and part-time receiver — seemingly on par with Cordarrelle Patterson’s breakout 2021 role.
But with Meyer long gone, we might anticipate Etienne earning plenty of run in 2022, especially considering the bell-cow chops he displayed while at Clemson. As a highly talented RB joining a subpar offense and a relatively crowded backfield, 10-12 touches per game seems realistic.
The Jags had the second-lowest offensive time of possession last season. If they can turn things around (at least marginally) and keep the chains moving more regularly this year, they should be able to feed both their backs, making Etienne an RB3 with RB2 pop if he overtakes Robinson.
James Robinson’s 2022 fantasy outlook
Can an undrafted signee hold off a first-round draft pick? If the UDFA is Robinson, then maybe. A torn Achilles in late December seriously marred an otherwise heroic campaign in which Robinson recorded an impressive 4.7 yards per carry and 8 rushing scores on only 164 carries.
For context, he earned only 4 more touches than the Chiefs’ Darrel Williams. To say Robinson was one of the league’s most underutilized starting RBs would be an understatement.
Perhaps it would be bold to assume Robinson returns from his serious injury unscathed. But if Robinson can post back-end RB2 production on less than 200 touches, his 2022 outlook doesn’t look half bad. Even if Etienne leapfrogs him atop the depth chart (a strong possibility, at least at some point this coming season), we could imagine Robinson continuing to net 8+ touches per contest, and maybe it’s more like 10+.
He’s caught 80 balls in his first two seasons, and this offense has nowhere to go but up. If Robinson’s RB ADP begins somewhere in the 30s, he’ll be a buy candidate. More likely, it’ll begin in the 24-28 range, and then shift as we enter July and August and the depth chart begins to shake out. Ideally, if Etienne isn’t too costly, it would be wise to snag both as a hedge in case Robinson falters, or in case one gets hurt again.