Travis Etienne has millions of reasons to return to Clemson football in 2020

Clemson football underclassmen that are draft eligible have until Friday, January 17th to make their decisions to leave for the NFL.

The only Clemson football players we know are coming back for sure is linebacker James Skalski and receiver Amari Rodgers. Skalski announced his intention to return when they opened up bowl practice for the Fiesta Bowl and Amari announced via twitter after the national championship loss that he was excited to play year four without a knee brace.

The assumption is that Tee Higgins and A.J. Terrell are going to leave. Tee makes sense as he is sure to be a first-round choice but Terrell is a prospect that took a huge hit last night with his inability to cover Ja’Marr Chase.

The one Clemson football underclassmen no one is sure of is running back Travis Etienne.

There is no denying that Etienne is the greatest running back in Clemson football history and coming back for his senior year he would be sure to obliterate every school and conference rushing record, of which he currently owns most of them.

There are a couple of drawbacks to coming back for Travis Etienne. The first is how offensive coordinator Tony Elliott uses the record-breaking running back. In Monday night’s title game against LSU, Travis last touched the ball with 10:49 remaining in the THIRD QUARTER.

Oversight or not, that is unacceptable to take the ball out of your best offensive weapons hands. Tony has never used Etienne the way that he should and in the moments that he should have. As Etienne looks at everything and weighs his decisions, this is something that he must consider.

The big reason to come back, however, is the draft itself. Yes, his draft grade was a day two grade. Currently, most NFL teams have Travis listed as the fifth-best running back available in the draft. He could climb or slide by his workouts and combine performance.

For argument’s sake, let’s say Travis does in fact stay slotted as the fifth-best running back prospect behind D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard, and J.K. Dobbins, there is more than a $20 million difference in the rookie contract.

Here are the contract totals of the first and fifth running backs taken since 2015:

2015:

2016:

2017:

2018:

2019:

  • Josh Jacobs – $11.9 million total value
  • Devin Singletary – $3.8 million total value

We can all agree that Travis will be better than half of the running backs mentioned above, but the NFL also does not put a premium on running backs and the 2020 draft is going to see wide receivers and offensive lineman go at a pace we have not seen before.

This means that running backs are going to drop further down than they normally would and that means a drop in the bottom line of their rookie contract.

Next: Offensive Play-Calling was a major issue vs. LSU

Should Travis decide to come back to Clemson football for a Senior year, he would be the number one running back prospect in the 2021 draft class and as we see above, that is the difference in more than $20 million most years.