The Urban Meyer experiment continues to produce interesting results in Jacksonville.
The first-year Jaguars coach told reporters on Saturday that Travis Etienne — the second running back taken off the board and No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft — will take all of his rookie minicamp reps as a receiver.
From NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
#Jaguars coach Urban Meyer told reporters that first-round RB Travis Etienne will take all of his minicamp reps at WR. “Worst case scenario you have a running back that's elite with receiver skills,” Meyer said. Similar, it seems, to Le’Veon Bell in his prime.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 15, 2021
That's certainly one way to work your rookie into the offense.
While it's not unheard of for players to change positions once they reach the NFL, it does seem a little strange that it would happen with Etienne, considering his track record of success as a running back. To be fair, he consistently demonstrated excellent pass-catching ability while at Clemson, totaling 102 receptions for 1,155 yards (11.3 yards per catch) and eight receiving touchdowns.
Moreover, Etienne was among college football's best pass-catching running backs for the 2020 season, per Pro Football Focus. He caught 48 passes for 588 yards — both single-season highs — and two touchdowns. That might work to his favor with the Jaguars, as former Clemson star and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence will still be his quarterback in Jacksonville.
Travis Etienne will take all his mini-camp reps at WR, per @RapSheet— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 15, 2021
Etienne receiving ranks among RBs in CFB last season:
🔸90.9 receiving grade (1st)
🔸588 receiving yards (1st)
🔸29 1st down/TD receptions (1st) pic.twitter.com/YzL6SRMJZD
That said, Etienne's pass-catching ability makes him a dual threat as a running back; it doesn't guarantee a successful transition to a full-time wide receiver. It's unclear whether Meyer considered changing Etienne's position (5-10, 215 pounds) when he drafted him, but that could have been the case considering James Robinson (1,070 yards, seven touchdowns in 2020) was so effective as an undrafted rookie.
One thing you can say about the move: It's making people talk. Add Tim Tebow and Meyer's coaching decisions to the mix, and the Jaguars are one of the most interesting teams of the 2021 NFL offseason.