Injuries are the absolute worst. Seeing a player get hurt at any point is downright awful and I wish we could turn the injury sliders off every year as if we were playing Madden. But unfortunately, injuries are a part of sports, and we have to adjust to the potential altered outcomes that could stem from them. For the Jacksonville Jaguars, they’ll sadly be without rookie running back Travis Etienne for the entire 2021 season after he suffered a Lisfranc injury that landed him on season-ending injured reserve.
Etienne was selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft with the No. 25 overall pick, reuniting him with his college quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. With Etienne’s unique skill set, he was expected to handle a prominent role in Jacksonville’s offense, mainly as a receiver. The standout Clemson product was also slated to garner carries in the backfield behind James Robinson.
The unfortunate season-ending injury to Etienne definitely changes how we should view the offense of the Jaguars. While you may be wondering how Etienne’s absence changes the outlook of the offense, let’s take a look at how each player will be affected.
Upon going No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft to the Jaguars, Lawrence was one of the most highly-touted prospects we’ve seen at quarterback since Andrew Luck. With Lawrence joining the offense, the Jaguars didn’t hesitate to surround him with more weapons, signing Marvin Jones Jr. and taking Etienne in the draft. Even though it’s awful that Etienne won’t suit up this season, Lawrence still has a talented group of weapons in Jones, D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Robinson. Given the supporting cast he still has — despite some rough moments in the preseason — Lawrence should still be a viable quarterback in fantasy football because Jacksonville should be down often in games, and he brings rushing upside. Having his college teammate in Etienne at his side could have made the adjustment to the NFL slightly easier, but my thoughts on Lawrence are unvaried with the Etienne news.
James Robinson/Carlos Hyde
Considering that Etienne is a running back, most people are going to turn to Robinson as the main beneficiary. Robinson put together a stellar rookie campaign in 2020 as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois State. Following the release of Leonard Fournette last offseason, Robinson assumed the lead role in Jacksonville’s backfield, finishing as RB7 in fantasy football in 2020. With Etienne joining the offense, Robinson was going to see less work in the passing game, which would have lowered his ceiling. However, with Etienne sidelined, Robinson could now have a role closer to the one we saw last year besides the possible stolen touches from Shenault and Carlos Hyde. Robinson has been avoided by many in drafts due to the presence of Etienne, but Robinson now has a clear path to being a borderline RB1 again or a solid RB2 this season.
Whenever the Jaguars hired Urban Meyer as their next head coach, he brought in some familiar faces, including Hyde. Hyde was the running back at Ohio State from 2010-2013 where he spent the final two years playing under Meyer. At this point of his career, Hyde isn’t a player that is going to command a ton of touches — or at least he shouldn't. That being said, Meyer may choose to give Hyde some short-yardage work in an attempt to keep Robinson fresh for 17 games. Before the injury to Etienne, Hyde was an afterthought and wasn’t worth wasting a pick on in drafts. Knowing that Etienne was placed on injured reserve, Hyde could be a solid handcuff for Robinson at the end of drafts just based on the fact that he could become an annoying running back if Meyer elects to deploy his former college running back more often than expected.
Marvin Jones/D.J. Chark/Laviska Shenault
One of the greatest mysteries that people in the fantasy football community have attempted to unravel is who is going to be the No. 1 wide receiver for the Jaguars. Is Jones going to emerge as the alpha after signing with Jacksonville in free agency? Could Chark return to the form we saw from him in 2019? Or will Shenault have a breakout sophomore campaign that cements his status as the true go-to target for Lawrence? If I were to put money on someone to produce the most numbers through the air, it’s Chark. Jones will be a close second as he is one of my favorite value picks at the wide receiver position.
While Chark and Jones could record the better receiving numbers — at least by a slight margin — Shenault could now see more rushing attempts with the injury to Etienne. Shenault proved to be a bowling ball with the ball in his hands during his collegiate days at Colorado, scampering for 280 yards and seven touchdowns on 42 attempts in the running game. Despite being limited to 18 carries for 91 yards as a rookie, Shenault could be in line for more creative plays where he gets the ball in his hands quickly. Instead of bickering about who the No. 1 wideout on the Jaguars could be, we should all accept the potential reality that all three of them could be relevant in fantasy football — barring injury. The sudden loss of Etienne definitely lends more targets to all three wideouts, with Shenault slated to carry the ball more often, giving all of them slight boosts in 2021.