2021 NFL Draft stock watch: Is Clemson RB Travis Etienne worthy of a top-5 pick?

With a standout performance against No. 7 Miami, could Clemson’s Travis Etienne become just the fourth running back since 2010 to go in the top five of the NFL draft?

Early round draft picks were on full display this weekend as there were some great matchups in the ACC and SEC on Saturday. The Alabama Crimson Tide offense racked up points and yards at will against the Mississippi Rebels. The Tide’s three-headed hydra of Najee Harris, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle came up huge. Harris ran for 209 yards and five touchdowns while Smith and Waddle combined for 19 receptions and 284 yards as the Crimson Tide had 723 total yards and 63 points.

Although Kellen Mond is not seen as an early-round pick, he played like it out dueling Kyle Trask in Texas A&M’s 41-38 victory against the Florida Gators. Mond completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Despite Trask’s favorite target hampered with an injury, the Texas native still threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns.

The matchup of the day was Clemson vs. Miami. The matchup’s importance was not about whether or not Miami could win, but whether or not Miami could hang with the Tigers. The ACC is desperate for a program to compete with the Tigers. It was obvious early that the team is not Hurricanes. Trevor Lawrence continues to live up to all the expectations heaped upon his rather large head. The defense — the lost position group this season — came to play against the Hurricanes.

Here is a closer look at some NFL Draft prospects from that game and others who helped and hurt their stock this past week.

NFL Draft stock watch

Stock up: Travis Etienne (1st Round) RB

Senior running back Travis Etienne’s last two games have shown why he’s a lock for the first round. Against Virginia, Etienne had over 100 yards receiving. Against Miami, scouts got a glimpse of what a game looks like when Etienne gets more than 12 carries. There are exceptions to every rule. In today’s NFL, the rule is you do not draft running backs high. Etienne is the exception to that rule.

If someone drafts the junior running back in the top-five, Etienne would join Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott as the only running backs drafted in the top five since 2010. Etienne is the total package as a runner. No place on the field is safe from Etienne’s speed; he defines a home run hitter. If there is a hole in Etienne’s game, it is pass blocking. Etienne is willing but needs to improve in that area.

Stock up: Jackson Carman (1st Round) OL

Jackson Carman is the first offensive lineman to make the stock watch list this season. Carman is a rarity at Clemson. The Tigers do not recruit many elite offensive linemen. Head coach Dabo Swinney usually relies on their phenomenal player development and take marginal linemen to develop them. Carman is the best offensive line recruit in the Swinney era at Clemson.

Carman shut down both Miami defensive ends Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips, with little to no help all game. Carman is a massive young man at 345 pounds. The Fairfield, Ohio native plays with aggressive; nasty streak scouts love in linemen. Carman also locked down Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham earlier this year. Carman’s feet could be a bit better, but he is the most polished offensive tackle in this draft or the past several drafts.

Stock up: Joseph Ossai (1st Round) OLB/DE

Although the Longhorns came up short against the Sooners in the Red River Showdown, Joseph Ossai was active all game long for Texas. The true junior ended the game with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and one-half sack. With the high number of pass rushers coming out, Ossai could decide to go back to Texas for his senior year.

Ossai is an elite athlete and still has room to grow physically. The best thing that happened to Ossai was spending time in Todd Orlando’s defensive system. Orlando is now at USC, but Ossai having the experience to play standing as an outside linebacker. New defensive coordinator Chris Ash is similarly using Ossai. This will allow Ossai to improve his coverage skills in addition to being a disruptive pass rusher.

Stock down: D’Eriq King (6th-7th Round) QB

The sentiment is the 5-foot-9 D’Eriq King is going to be asked to switch positions when the NFL Draft comes around, but if there were an opportunity to get a shot to play quarterback at the next level, it would have been a great game against Clemson. There were many factors as to why King struggled against Clemson; the fact remains King struggled against Clemson.

King completed just 42.9 percent of his passes and threw his first two interceptions of the season. King’s lone highlight of the night was a 56-yard run when the game was already out of hand. Many college quarterbacks have had successful careers at the next level at other positions. Julian Eddleman was a quarterback at Kent State; Pittsburgh Steelers all-time leading receiver Hines Ward was a quarterback at Georgia. Steeler Antwaan Randle El was a quarterback at Indiana.

King could have a long productive career in the NFL; it likely won’t be at quarterback.

Stock down: Quincy Roche (1st-2nd Round) DE

Despite a poor outing against Clemson, Roche is likely still a top 50 player. However, tape against elite competition matters and this was a lackluster performance against an offensive tackle who will likely be a top-ten pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Both Carman and fellow tackle Jordan McFadden handled Roche without much help. These types of performances can cost you a couple of million dollars if you slide too far.

Roche has been solid this season; now, he has to do it against top-level competition. Unfortunately for Roche, he’s already faced the best offensive line on Miami’s schedule as the Hurricanes do not play Notre Dame. For Roche, the solution is simple; dominate the inferior competition. Pitt, North Carolina State and Wake Forest have all struggled in pass protection this season. Roche needs to have big games against the schedule to solidify his place in the top 40-50 players drafted.

Stock down: Daelin Hayes (2nd Round) DE

Notre Dame defensive end Daelin Hayes was supposed to be a key piece in a pass rush rotation that included Julian Okrawra last season until a shoulder injury ended his season early. This season Hayes returned to prove he is a top 50-60 pick. So far, Hayes has been eerily quiet with no tackles for loss or sacks.

Hayes’s play is good news for Notre Dame but bad news for Hayes. Younger players like Isaiah Foskey and Ovie Oghoufo are getting on the field, taking snaps away from veterans like Hayes. That proves the Irish have improved their defensive recruiting and development. Unfortunately for Hayes, that means fewer opportunities to get on the field and make plays. If Hayes continues being ineffective, he’s going to see less playing time.

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