In the coming weeks, we will be going position-by-position and previewing this year’s draft class. Before we get into the reports though, it’s important that we explain how our grading scale works. As a scouting staff, we use common terminology to grade every trait that we evaluate. We use a 1-9 scale with a 1 representing a “Reject” grade and a 9 meaning a “Rare” grade for whatever trait we are evaluating. We spend a lot of time in our internal Scout School making sure that our scales are calibrated with one another, and this common scale and set of language is a key aspect to ensuring that our evaluations are consistent (that…and cross-checks).

Additionally, for each position in the book, there are positional grading scales. As opposed to grading traits, these scales apply to stacking the final grades for each prospect. 

The final running back scale is as follows:

9.0 – 7.0High-end 3 down starter. Pro Bowl level player.
6.9 – 6.7Strong starter who plays on all 3 downs
6.6 – 6.5Lower-end starter. Starting player on early downs
6.3Role playing starter. 3rd down difference maker
6.2Backup who can play all 3 downs
6.1-6.0Developmental. Top traits but needs time.
5.6-5.5Backup. Either base or 3rd down role

For this preview, we will look at Clemson running back Travis Etienne.

Travis Etienne: RB Rank 3 of 25  | Final Grade: 6.6

Report by Bryce Rossler

One Liner 

Etienne is a fast and explosive, slight-of-frame back whose finesse running style and timid pass protection may prevent him from becoming a team’s primary option at the NFL level.


Travis Etienne is a running back at Clemson. He played in a shotgun-heavy offense that primarily ran inside zone, power, and counter schemes which were often tagged with RPO and/or option elements. Clemson backs were incorporated in the passing game via a diverse screen package. He played in 55 games during his career, starting in 42 of them for the Tigers. He is a very good athlete with excellent quickness and explosiveness, very good agility, and good balance. He has a slight frame and below-average size for the position.

Run Game

Within zone concepts, Etienne has the ability to press gaps and process blocking development, and has excellent burst and good footwork to make one cut and transition upfield quickly. Within moving parts and gap concepts, he displays mediocre timing/discipline and inefficient footwork, and has a tendency to outpace pullers to the POA or abort the design of the play to cut into flashes of space that quickly fill. 

When confronted with immediate backfield penetration, he struggles to mitigate lost yardage or create for himself. He is hesitant to stick his nose into a pile and take tough yards. His mediocre power results in struggles to fall forward and generate YAC in face-up situations. He has excellent burst to challenge pursuit angles and outrun second- and third-level defenders. He wins by creating unfavorable tackling positions for defenders at the 2nd-level and in space and has good contact balance to bounce off resulting arm tackle attempts. He demonstrates sufficient ball security and can be loose with the ball when attempting to evade tackles.

Pass Game

Etienne demonstrates sufficient mental processing to identify threats in pass protection. His lack of willingness to square up blitzers results in suboptimal body positioning, which is compounded by his less than desirable stoutness to anchor and sustain. 

He has the requisite athletic traits to function as a matchup problem out of the backfield and from the slot, although he was not often asked to do so at Clemson. He has sufficient hands and does not track or adjust to the ball naturally and has difficulty addressing off-target throws.

Last Word

Etienne projects best as a lower-end starter in an inside zone/duo-heavy scheme with minimal power-scheme run types. His play speed, playmaking ability, and vision within zone schemes will allow him to contribute as a runner early, but he will need to be utilized on screens and as part of 5-man route concepts in order to mitigate his liability in pass protection. 

He has kick return experience and could contribute in that area at the next level, but likely won’t contribute much elsewhere.

Play speedPass pro
ElusivenessScheme discipline in gap runs
Zone visionPower

Critical Factors

Contact Balance6
Passing Game5

Positional Factors

Play Speed8
Catching Skill5
Pass Pro4
Ball Security5
Special TeamsValue5




Positive %Per 100 TouchesEPA
RecPer Trgt

Deep Dive

UsageReceivingTotal PointsTotal Points Rtg
Out %
Box %

This article is an excerpt from Sports Info Solutions’ third annual edition of The SIS Football Rookie Handbook, with scouting reports and statistical breakdowns on over 300 college football players who are likely to be drafted or signed as rookie free agents in 2021 (the SIS glossary defines the stats used in this article). The book also includes unique and informative NFL team pages, research deep-dives by the SIS R&D team, research on key football subjects (including injuries), and the NCAA version of their flagship football statistic, Total Points.