Depending who you read, listen to, etc., Travis Etienne is either the No. 1 or No. 2 running back prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft. Had he left Clemson a year ago, he could have easily been the first running back drafted in 2020.
Etienne has had a fine senior season, averaging 5.6 yards with 13 scores on the ground in 11 games thus far. With one or two games left (College Football Playoff), Etienne already has career-bests in catches (44) and receiving yards (524).
Etienne is a likely first-round pick in April. In any case, these three teams should be looking to rebuild their backfields around him.
Where would Travis Etienne fit best?
3. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing attack, but that is of course bolstered by Kyler Murray’s running ability. Kenyan Drake is headed for free agency, and it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be brought back on a multi-year deal. Chase Edmonds (49 catches, 4.8 yards per carry this year) is a nice player, but it’s impossible to know if he’s got every-down back mettle.
Sitting at the 20th overall pick right now (via Tankathon), the Cardinals would probably be reaching to take Etienne there. But he will be among their options, and depending on how free agency shakes out the marriage of need and the best player available could be here.
2. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are sure to be in the mix to draft a running back in 2021, and Najee Harris is alongside Etienne as the top two backs in the class. Miami has the league’s 22nd-ranked rushing attack entering Week 16. They’ve pretty much pieced the running back rotation together all season, as Myles Gaskin and more recently Salvon Ahmed usurped offseason acquisitions Matt Breida and Jordan Howard.
1. New York Jets
With a win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15, the Jets are now behind the Jacksonville Jaguars in the battle for the No. 1 pick and the right to take Trevor Lawrence. If they end up at No. 2, they would be in line to take another quarterback there.
No matter who the quarterback is in 2021 or beyond, the Jets don’t have a lot going at running back. Frank Gore is as likely to retire as play next year, and he’s not under contract with the Jets anyway. La’Michal Perine is an unknown quantity, after a rookie season mostly lost to injury and the machinations of Adam Gase. If they can’t get Lawrence, the Jets would do well to secure his Clemson backfield mate to fill another need. With their second first-round pick, courtesy of the Jamal Adams trade, Etienne looks ideal.