Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently came out with their “Top 25 Prospects For The 2021 NFL Draft Who Chose To Return To College Football” list and it has a Tiger at the top of it.

Clemson’s record smashing running back, Travis Etienne, sits at the very top of the list.

Of everyone on this list, Etienne has by far the least to prove. He already showed he can be a factor in the passing game last season, going from 12 receptions in 2018 to 37 in 2019. If he would have declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, there’s a good chance he would have been the first running back off the board. All we want to see is business as usual after he broke an absurd 91 tackles on 207 attempts as a junior — the best rate we’ve ever seen from a college back.

PFF on ETN

Etienne is expected to have most, if not all, of the major records for a running back at Clemson, and evevn the ACC, by the time the 2020 season ends. He should be a major factor in Clemson’s attempt at another playoff run. With the Tigers losing Tee Higgins’ early to the NFL Draft and Justyn Ross about to have surgery, it’s possible we see Etienne even more involved in the passing game in 2020.

An interesting tidbit about PFF being so high on ETN is that ESPN’s Draft Analyst Todd McShay had a vastly different opinion in his “Way Too Early Top 32 NFL Draft prospects for 2021.” McShay did not have ETN in his top 32 and thinks Alabama running back Najee Harris will be the first running back taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, albeit late in the first round.

There’s one big thing keeping Harris from being in the top running back conversation: speed. The Alabama senior is an ox at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and has unsurprisingly been difficult to tackle over his career. He’s broken 96 tackles on 326 attempts over the past two seasons. Harris also showed great hands in 2019 — most notably his back-shoulder score against LSU — and can be a weapon in the passing game. His big-play ability will be severely limited in the league, though, with what looks like 4.6-second speed on tape.

PFF on Harris

PFF Top 25 Prospects For The 2021 NFL Draft Who Chose To Return To College Football:

  1. RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
  2. DL Marvin Wilson, FSU
  3. CB Caleb Farley, VT
  4. WR Devonta Smith, Bama
  5. OT Alex Leatherwood, Bama
  6. TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn St
  7. DL Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
  8. LB Dylan Moses, Bama
  9. OG Wyatt Davis, Ohio St
  10. CB Shaun Wade, Ohio St
  11. OT Walker Little, Stanford
  12. DE Chris Rumph II, Duke
  13. WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma St
  14. OL Trey Smith, Tennessee
  15. OT Sam Cosmi, Texas
  16. WR Sage Surratt, Wake Forest
  17. RB Trey Sermon, Ohio St
  18. DL Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
  19. OL Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
  20. RB Najee Harris, Bama
  21. QB Jamie Newman, Georgia
  22. S Richard Lecounte, Georgia
  23. DE Quincy Roche, Miami (FL)
  24. WR Tamorrion Terry, FSU
  25. CB Elijah Molden, Washington

There is no way to know at this point where ETN might be drafted a year from now. For now, Clemson fans are thrilled that Etienne decided to stay for his senior season, and will settle for seeing him break more records along the way. Especially if he’s helping the Tigers make another title run before he exits for the the NFL.

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