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Etienne No Longer the Odds-On Favorite to Be First RB Taken in 2021 NFL Draft – Where’s the Value?

Travis Etienne running with the football.
For the first time, Clemson's Travis Etienne is not the odds-on favorite to be the first running back chosen in the 2021 NFL Draft. Photo from @ESPNStatsInfo (Twitter).
  • Clemson’s Travis Etienne is no longer the odds-on leader to be the first running back off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft
  • Is Etienne worth a play now at odds of +110? Should you consider Najee Harris (+350) or Chuba Hubbard (+500), or perhaps even a sleeper further down the board?
  • See the full odds board and analysis of the 2021 RB class below

When it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft, Travis Etienne is still rated #1. However, it can be argued that the Clemson running back is no longer a lock to be #1.

Etienne is still clinging to top spot when it comes to which running back will be first off the board during the 2021 NFL Draft. He is no longer situated as the odds-on favorite, though.

Currently, Etienne is offered at a betting line of +110.

Odds to Be First RB Chosen in 2021 NFL Draft

Team School Odds
Travis Etienne Clemson +110
Najee Harris Alabama +350
Chuba Hubbard Oklahoma State +500
Trey Sermon Oklahoma +800
Zamir White Georgia +900
Kylin Hill Mississippi State +1000
Master Teague Ohio State +1000
Max Borghi Washington State +1000
Pooka Williams Kansas +1200
Demetric Felton UCLA +1500
Kenneth Gainwell Memphis +1500
Brian Robinson Jr Alabama +1600
CJ Verdell Oregon +1800
Michael Carter North Carolina +2000
Elijah Mitchell Louisiana +2200
Jermar Jefferson Oregon State +2500
Meikhi Sargent Iowa +3000
Stephen Carr USC +3300
Rakeem Boyd Arkansas +5000
Charles Williams UNLV +6000

Odds taken June 2nd

Alabama’s Najee Harris (+350) and Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard (+500) are next in this betting market. And who isn’t rooting for Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis (+1500), simply because he has the best surname ever for a running back?

Etienne Looks to Bounce Back

Etienne opted to pass on entering the NFL Draft and return to Clemson for his senior season. It all has to do with timing.

In 2018, Etienne was spectacular. He rambled for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns during the Tigers’ national championship campaign.

Last season wasn’t quite as rewarding. Clemson didn’t repeat as national champions and Etienne’s numbers regressed. He rushed for 1,614 yards and 19 TDs. His yardage total rated Etienne #7 in the NCAA.

While his ground game numbers were down, Etienne was a much bigger factor in Clemson’s passing game . He caught 37 balls for 432 yards and four touchdowns. All those digits were all career highs.

Harris Ramps Up

Harris took on the feature back role for the Crimson Tide last season. He nearly doubled his carries, going from 117 to 209. As well, he jumped from four TDs to 13.

However, Harris gained just 1,224 yards. His yards per carry average slipped from 6.7 to 5.9.

On the other hand, he became a major player in the Alabama passing game. Harris made just four receptions for seven yards in 2018. He caught 27 passes for 304 yards and seven TDs last season, averaging 11.3 yards per catch.

Hubbard Providing Canadian Content

Hubbard is putting his name up there alongside Rueben Mayes and Tim Biakabutuka among the great Canadian running backs in NCAA history. From Sherwood Park, Alta., an Edmonton suburb known for being an NHL player factory, Hubbard instead runs the football.

Last season, he carried the rock better than anyone in the NCAA. Hubbard, just a sophomore in 2019, led the nation, rushing for 2,094 yards. If only his yards gained after contact were taken into account, Hubbard would’ve still finished 16th in the NCAA in rushing yardage.

His 21 rushing TDs were tied for third in the NCAA. He was the only running back to finish among the top three in both categories.

Last season, Hubbard won the Cornish Trophy as the top Canadian player in the NCAA. ESPN analyst and former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard picked Hubbard as his choice to capture 2020 Heisman honors.

Which Back Will the NFL Put Up Front?

While his odds may be lengthening, Etienne is still the guy that NFL scouts will put at the head of the 2021 draft class. His 56 career rushing TDs are already an ACC record for a running back.

Others may look at Etienne’s reduction in rushing totals last season as cause for concern. For NFL personnel people, that he was adding significant pass-catching ability to his repertoire will only make Etienne more valuable in their eyes.

Harris has also proven a displayed knack for catching the ball out of the backfield. That’s a vital skill for a back to possess in today’s pass-happy NFL. However, the Crimson Tide are so rich in talent at the skill positions that it’s difficult for a back to separate himself from the pack.

On the other hand, look around at runners like Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Baltimore’s Mark Ingram. There’s no doubt that Alabama knows how to produce NFL-caliber backs.

In Hubbard’s case, playing in the weaker Big-12 Conference might leave some scouts uncertain as to what to make of his talent level. Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill (+1000) could even jump ahead of Hubbard on draft day.

Pick: Travis Etienne (+110).

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