The Jacksonville Jaguars made a surprise pick when they selected running back Travis Etienne No. 25 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
That’s not to say he isn’t talented, as Etienne rushed for 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns in four years at Clemson.
He also caught 102 passes for 1,115 yards and eight touchdowns.
However, the Jaguars already had a talented running back on their team in sophomore James Robinson.
As a rookie last season, Robinson rushed 240 times for 1,070 and seven touchdowns.
He also caught 49 passes for 344 yards and an additional three touchdowns.
But whether Etienne was a luxury pick or not is now all a moot point.
The first-round pick suffered a foot injury and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season before it started.
Jaguars officially placed RB Travis Etienne Jr. on injured reserve.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 24, 2021
Jacksonville is now poised to enter the 2021 NFL season with Robinson as their starter and veteran Carlos Hyde as his backup.
They also have Devine Ozigbo, who is mainly a pass-blocking third-down runner.
It seems likely that the Jaguars will bring in a veteran to fill out their running back room.
If so, these three seem like the most likely and beneficial options
3. Todd Gurley
In terms of name brand alone, Todd Gurley might be the best free agent runner available.
He is a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, was the 2015 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year.
Over his six-year career, Gurley has rushed 1,460 times for 6,082 yards and 67 touchdowns while catching 243 passes for 2,254 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Last season, Gurley started 15 games for the Atlanta Falcons, rushing 195 times for 678 yards and nine touchdowns.
His running backs coach at the time was Bernie Parmalee.
Parmalee was hired by the Jaguars as Jacksonville’s new running backs coach this offseason.
Report: Bernie Parmalee to be Jaguars running backs coach https://t.co/WMDGa226H6
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 10, 2021
Teams have been weary to sign Gurley this offseason due to potentially troubling knee problems.
However, he is still just 27 years old and has appeared in no fewer than 13 games in all six of his NFL seasons.
With familiarity at running backs coach and a glaring need, Jacksonville would be the perfect spot for Gurley to rebuild his value.
For the Jaguars, Gurley would provide a potentially explosive running mate for Robinson who could pick up the slack left by Etienne.
2. DeAndre Washington
DeAndre Washington certainly isn’t the most exciting running back available.
To be fair, not many are.
But Washington is just 28 years old and has shown flashes during his brief time in the NFL.
He was originally drafted in the fifth round by the Oakland, now Las Vegas, Raiders in 2016.
He spent four seasons there before signing a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.
Washington was dealt to the Miami Dolphins for a sixth-round pick in the middle of the year and is now a free agent.
In his six-year career, Washington has appeared in 59 games, but has only started six.
He has rushed 313 times for 1,213 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 93 passes for 643 yards and an additional score.
As a rookie in 2016, Washington rushed 87 times for 467 yards and two touchdowns.
The yards were a career-high while the rushing touchdowns were one less than his career high of three.
Washington’s running backs coach at the time was none other than Parmalee.
Like Gurley, Washington has both an understanding of what Parmalee is trying to do and has succeeded under his tutelage.
He has also proven he can catch the ball, which is what the Jags are looking for after losing Etienne.
Washington’s signing wouldn’t take the NFL world by storm, but he is a sensible addition with the skill set and connection Jacksonville is looking for so close to the regular season.
1. Matt Breida
Matt Breida is currently on a one-year, $1 million contract with the Buffalo Bills.
He carries just $140,000 in dead cap.
As teams look to cut down to their 53-man rosters, ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques predicted Breida could be on the outside looking in:
“Breida signed with the Bills this offseason and, on paper, immediately added a home-run-hitting element that no other player on the roster possesses. But his place on the final 53-man roster is not set in stone; Breida still has to beat out Antonio Williams and Christian Wade for the final seat in Buffalo’s running backs room — which might not have more than three backs considering how often the Bills throw the ball. If Breida can make himself valuable on special teams, such as fellow running back Taiwan Jones, it will help his cause.”
Breida has been in the NFL since 2017, playing for the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins.
He has appeared in 55 games, starting 19.
During that time, Breida has rushed 440 times for 2,156 yards and six touchdowns.
However, it is Breida’s work in the passing game that should appeal to Jacksonville.
Through his career, Breida has caught 76 passes for 657 yards and four touchdowns.
He has a career average of 8.6 yards per reception while his 10.7 average last year would have been the highest among running backs had he qualified.
As they look for a new running back, Jacksonville will be sure to scour the waiver wire as veterans get cut from their respective teams.
Breida certainly isn’t the player Etienne is expected to be.
However, he comes cheap and will fill the pass-catching void left by Etienne’s injury.