It's NFL Draft rumor time and Travis Etienne to the Buffalo Bills is one of the hottest
The Travis Etienne buzz to Buffalo continues to heat up as the first round of the NFL Draft is now just two days away.
Etienne is considered by most of the draft analysts to be the most dynamic running back in the draft, and it’s not hard to understand why. After all, the guy scored 78 touchdowns during his four-year career at Clemson.
Peter King published his mock draft Monday morning in his weekly column for NBC Sports and he had general manager Brandon Beane picking Etienne with the 30th overall pick.
ESPN’s Todd McShay took it one step further Monday afternoon. He said on a podcast with Ryen Rusillo that he’s hearing Beane is trying to trade up to grab Etienne before teams like the Jets at No. 23, the Steelers at 24 and the Jaguars at 25 – teams who need a back – have a chance to take him.
“Travis Etienne is the hottest running back in this class right now in terms of where his draft stock is going to be,” McShay said. “(The Bills) think that he’s the best back and they want to pair him up with Josh Allen and create that backfield.”
King and other analysts mocking Etienne to Buffalo is one thing because they’re offering an educated opinion. McShay relaying things he’s hearing is a different matter because as anyone who follows the draft knows, there are annually more rumors flying around the week of the draft than there are airplanes flying in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. And most of them end up being exactly that, rumors.
Travis Entienne 40-yard dash time not elite, but agility at top speed is
This is what King, who’s as plugged in as anyone, said about the Bills taking Etienne:
“Now that the Bills have one of the most dangerous receiver corps in the league, time to inject some life into the run game. Etienne would be a great puzzle piece in an offense that craves speed in the backfield. Etienne doesn’t have the speed of some of the fleet backs or wideouts who run Jet sweeps (he’s a 4.44 guy), but the book on him is he cuts and fakes at top speed, which can make up for the fact that he has good but not transcendent speed. Plus, Etienne is very good in the screen game. He had 22 plays of 40 yards or more at Clemson, with a ridiculous 78 touchdowns in four seasons.”
King continued, “I’m not a huge fan of rushers in the first round, but the Bills are in top-off mode: What player can they use to make a very good roster a tick better? And Etienne, combined with the great weapons already on the offense, would be a pretty great add to an offense that averaged 31.3 points a game last year. He’d be an extra headache for defensive coordinators to solve.”
You read that and you see why it would be perfectly understandable if indeed Beane is calling teams picking in the high teens and low 20s to gauge interest in a deal because Etienne could be a special player, not to mention the player who takes an already outstanding Buffalo offense to another level.
Look at his college career, it’s truly special. He never missed a game in college, playing in 55 with 42 starts for one of the premier programs in the country, and he gained 4,952 yards rushing (7.2 yards per carry) and scored 70 touchdowns.
That’s enough to get Beane and other teams excited, but over the last two years Etienne made a big leap as pass catcher. He finished with 102 catches for 1,155 yards and eight touchdowns.
The 5-foot-10, 215-pounder was a three-time first-team All-America selection and a two-time ACC player of the year. His rushing yards and total TDs are ACC records, and he was one of the key players when Clemson won its most recent national championship in 2018.
“A true game-changer at running back,” said McShay, who had Etienne going to the Bills in one of his several mock drafts. “He’s exactly that, scoring 78 touchdowns from scrimmage over his time at Clemson. Let that sink in. The man was in the end zone 78 times in a college uniform.”
The Bills have invested third-round picks in the past two drafts at the running back position, first with Devin Singletary and then Zack Moss. Neither player has really established himself, and it seems a little early to be giving up on both in order to turn to Etienne.
However, Beane hinted last week during a Zoom call with local reporters that he might think an upgrade is necessary.
“I don’t think either one of our backs are home run hitters,” he said. “So, is there an elite trait that (a back in this draft) has that says, ‘Man, he’s got something we don’t have.’ That’s probably the conversation, versus, ‘OK, are we going to take the same type of back as Devin, are we gonna take the same type of back Zack? Because even those two guys have different skill sets.”
When he was asked about spending another high pick on a running back, Beane said, “I don’t worry about that too much. We feel very comfortable with the guys we have, so I’m not going into this draft going, ‘Man we’ve got to find some back here in the top few rounds’ or anything like that. But there are some good players in here and if he’s the best guy on our board we wouldn’t hesitate to take them.”
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.