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Versatility, speed, the key to the Jaguars’ selection of RB Travis Etienne

The Jaguars wanted to add more speed to its offense and did so in selecting running back Travis Etienne near the end of round 1.

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer beamed with excitement when speaking about former Clemson running back Travis Etienne, selected with the team’s second first-round pick, reunited with quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Lawrence and Etienne became the first same-school combination the team has selected in rounds one and two since Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew in 2006.

In nearly every press conference since he became the team’s head coach, Meyer spoke about the team’s need for speed, players who could explode down the field and give the team something they didn’t have last season.

While Etienne is a running back on paper, it was his receiving ability that granted him an edge to be selected, a player Meyer feels is just as good outside as a receiver as he is a running back.

“This is a multi-dimensional back that we’ve kind of, from day one, I know Coach [Darrell] Bevell and [Coach] Schotty [Brian Schottenheimer] and I all feel that the idea of offense is to create match-up nightmares,” Meyer said shortly following the selection.

“And I’ve had some good fortune over the years to have a guy that can do both, flex out. He’s as good outside as a receiver as he is as a running back. So, [he’s a] high-end character guy that has elite speed, that—really, really excited.”

In four years with Clemson, Etienne accounted for 4,952 rushing yards, an ACC record, rushing for an average of 7.2 yards-per-carry. He added 70 rushing touchdowns, also an ACC record. In the passing game, the former Clemson running back accounted for 102 receptions for 1,155 yards and eight touchdowns.

“The way we’ve always looked at offensive football is that, just over the years, any time you can find that dual-threat guy that can carry the ball and catch the ball, obviously the name that comes up is Percy [Harvin] so often,” Meyer said of Etienne.

“I’m not saying he’s a Percy, we’ll find out. But he’s a guy that’s a piece of the puzzle that is kind of hard to cover, hard to defend.”

With the selection of Lawrence first overall, Meyer and his staff understood the need to add to the offense surrounding its franchise quarterback in order to make him as successful as possible. With the additions at running back (Carlos Hyde and Etienne) and wide receiver (Marvin Jones and Jamal Agnew), the team’s offense is coming together.

Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke concurs with Meyer that Etienne is a versatile, explosive player who offers plenty to the offensive, particularly in the passing game. The days of having 14, 15, 16 play drives in the NFL are over, he explained, and Etienne is one of the players that can take it the distance on any given play.

While selecting a running back in the first round is frowned upon in some circles, the Jaguars felt good about the Clemson running back with the 25th pick, even prior to yesterday’s draft. With the Pittsburgh Steelers taking a running back shortly prior, the writing was on the way.

“Travis [Etienne] is someone we had penciled in at 25 and we’re hoping he would get to us. We had several others as well, but you always have a plan A, plan B, plan C, 1,2,3, however you want to rate it. We feel very good about how we ended up today.”