From pre-school and growing up on the same block to college and weddings, Vin and Joe have been best friends for 27 years. However, that doesn’t mean they agree on fantasy football rankings. In this series, the two friends argue about players they just don’t see eye to eye on. Today’s topic? Runningbacks. Whose side are you on? Thanks for reading this first post on our fantasy football debate club.
Joe’s Argument For Travis Etienne
Yes- I know Travis Etienne was hurt last year and I will even admit that the Jaguars do not have the best offensive line, but this guy is otherworldly talented and deserves to be a third-round pick. I currently have Travis Etienne ranked as RB15, well above the consensus of RB24. I’ll try to make this simple and hopefully change Vin’s mind in the process as I take him on in fantasy football debate club.
Etienne is a three-down back with insane ability, agility, and speed (just see his insane combine statistics). Lawrence throws to running backs often, and being that the Jaguars should trail often coupled with the fact that Etienne has elite pass-catching ability, he could catch upwards of 60 passes this year. Just two years ago with Lawrence as this quarterback at Clemson, Etienne led the country in receiving yards and ranked second in receptions among running backs. This ability creates an already high floor, but his ceiling is what intrigues me. James Robinson’s injury, a torn Achilles, has been career-ending and altering for many athletes. Without anyone else competing for touches and a severely banged-up Robinson, Etienne could have the backfield all to himself. Don’t be surprised when he gets picked in the late first round and early second round of next year’s drafts!
Vin’s Argument Against Travis Etienne
This is a website that focuses on injuries so I would be remiss to not at least remind everyone Travis Etienne did not have a rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in August of last year. Our team covered this injury more in-depth here. As for the fantasy outlook of the “second-year rookie”, I think my friend Joe is a little too high on his fantasy prospects for 2022, ranking him as RB15.
In my opinion, Jacksonville’s offense as constructed just isn’t good enough to support a Top 15 RB. James Robinson finished as RB24 last season. The Jags have a new offensive-minded coach in Doug Pederson, but a lot of the offense remains intact, just adding Evan Engram and Christian Kirk. Anything is an improvement from Urban Meyer, but not sure how much better this offense can be in 2022. It’s also possible that James Robinson comes back later in the season to really eat into Etienne’s value.
Vin’s Argument for Elijah Mitchell
Say what you want about Shanahan and his seemingly random choice of new running backs he uses each season, they all produce. In two of the last three seasons, the San Francisco 49ers have put up elite rushing numbers. In 2019 they ranked 2nd in rushing attempts, 2nd in rushing yards, and 1st in rushing TDs. Last season they finished 5th, 7th, and 5th in those categories, respectively. We can’t forget that a lot of last season’s totals came from Deebo Samuel’s insane numbers as a running back, but word earlier this offseason was that he wasn’t interested in being a running back anymore. That’s not to say the 49ers won’t turn around and use him in a similar fashion come week 8 this season, but I think they will dial back his usage a little bit.
Trey Lance projects to be the starting quarterback this season which could mean an even heavier run approach for San Francisco. All these arguments and I haven’t even mentioned Elijah Mitchell. The rookie was RB25 overall, but RB12 on a per game basis in 2021, despite missing games with injury. I think if he can stay healthy the entire season, it’s a slam dunk that he finishes much higher than RB26, which is where Mr. D’Amico has him ranked currently in this fantast football debate club argument.
Joe’s Argument Against Elijah Mitchell
I will start this by saying that I was the guy last year who spend ALL of his FAB money on Elijah Mitchell in every single league. It generally paid off, as he finished as RB25 thanks to high volume and opportunity. However, he is being drafted way too highly this year- I currently have him as RB26, while the consensus has him at RB21. Mitchell’s was horrendous last year in every major efficiency statistic, had a total of only 20 targets last year, and way more than half of his yards came after contact, which is not a recipe for long-term success. Let’s also not forget how much Deebo Samuel is going to eat into the rushing attack like he did last year.
Mitchell plays for Mike Shanahan, who can never be trusted for fantasy football, and the 49ers drafted Tyrion Davis-Price out of LSU in the third round, who was a top runner in the SEC as a junior. Mitchell missed 6 games last year as he broke down, showing he cannot carry a full NFL workload for the duration of the season. On top of all that, who will be behind center this year? Trey Lance- the guy who will run crazy and steal many red zone opportunities. I am way out on him this year, and so should you.
Article written by Joe D’Amico and Vin Vento, July 26, 2022