After missing the entirety of his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury, running back Travis Etienne is back on the field and ready for your fantasy football lineup. Will the Clemson product be an immediate star, or will he show signs of rust as he returns from his injury and adjusts to NFL speed?
Travis Etienne Fantasy Football Profile
Travis Etienne Himself
Etienne has not played a snap of regular season football, so it’s impossible to say how he looks against professional competition. That being said, we can look at his prospect profile to see how he projects at the next level. Based on just about every aspect of his collegiate career, we can assume that Etienne will have some form of fantasy football success at the NFL level.
According to PlayerProfiler, Etienne finished his collegiate career with a respectable 25.7% dominator rating (56th percentile) and, more importantly, a 12.2% target share (88th percentile). Three-down running backs are cheat codes in fantasy football, especially in PPR leagues, and Etienne has a history of that usage. Additionally, he has the size you want at 5′-10″ and 215 pounds and the first-round draft capital that proves his film is just as good as his stats. Again, there is no way to evaluate a prospect with 100% accuracy, but Etienne has all of the traits and usage history you’d like to see out of any prospect.
The Lisfranc Injury
Of course, there is one thing that this analysis fails to take into account, and that’s Etienne’s Lisfranc injury. The foot injury forced the running back to miss the entirety of his rookie season, and these types of ailments have a reputation as a career-ender. However, a deeper dive into the injury itself shows that Etienne should be ok moving forward.
Since 2009, 10 running backs have suffered a Lisfranc injury. While that isn’t the largest sample in the world, we see a trend emerge with the available data. The Lisfranc was a kiss of death for older running backs like an age-27 Maurice Jones-Drew or an age-30 Cedrick Benson, but younger players were able to bounce back. Le’Veon Bell suffered a Lisfranc sprain as a rookie and still managed to be an unstoppable force of nature during his prime years, while Darren McFadden largely stayed the same before and after his 2011 injury.
Etienne’s injury was more severe than Bell’s, but he has had more than enough time to return to health. According to medical studies performed by people much smarter than me (linked in the article above), the average football player needs 11.1 months of rehab before returning to the field, while a study performed across multiple sports found that median recovery time was closer to 30 weeks. Seeing as Etienne suffered his injury in August of 2021, he should be completely recovered and ready to roll in Week 1. Additionally, just based on his preseason film, the young running back looks good.
Travis Etienne is going to be a problem. Looks explosive. pic.twitter.com/XhqiYw5f3n
— TheOGfantasyfootball (@TheOGfantasy) August 12, 2022
Projecting the Jacksonville Jaguars
Now that we’ve talked about Travis Etienne the player, let’s talk about his situation. The Jacksonville Jaguars were an absolute disaster last year, finishing 3-14 under the failed tutelage of Urban Meyer and company. The organization cleaned house in the offseason, hiring Doug Pederson as their latest head coach and throwing an absurd amount of money at just about every position.
With a proven head coach and reliable weapons in the passing game, it’s safe to assume that the Jaguars will be better in 2022 than they were in 2021. While they certainly won’t compete for a Super Bowl, they should be competitive enough to consistently move the ball down the field and allow for at least some players to be relevant for fantasy football.
It’s notable that Jacksonville’s spending spree did not include any reinforcements at the running back position. As things currently stands, Jacksonville’s depth chart is comprised of Etienne, James Robinson, and fifth-round rookie Snoop Conner. Under normal circumstances, Robinson and Etienne would probably split snaps fairly evenly. However, Robinson is coming off of a December Achilles injury.
While Robinson is practicing again, Achilles injuries are a kiss of death to running backs. Based on historical precedent, Cam Akers is the best-case scenario for Robinson, as he came back from a July 2021 Achilles tear to play in the postseason. That being said, he looked awful and lacked any of the burst and effectiveness he showed as a rookie. Perhaps Robinson will be healthy enough to play in Week 1, but the odds of him being anywhere close to as good as Etienne are slim to none. Etienne should demand a heavy workload on a league-average offense, and that is enough to project a top-18ish finish for the season.