Well, let me start by saying I have been wrong for the last two years on what is going to happen to the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield. I was certain last year that Travis Etienne was going to be the lead back from the beginning of the season and he was going to show everyone why he was a first-round pick, but Head Coach Doug Pederson had other plans. The coaching staff decided at the beginning of last season that Etienne and James Robinson would be in a timeshare and that they would ride the hot hand in games. That led to James Robinson being the lead back for the first three weeks of the season and then almost a 50/50 timeshare from Week 4 through Week 6, until finally someone in the Jaguars organization realized that Etienne was the far superior talent and good things seemed to happen when he is on the field. That led to the Jaguars trading James Robinson to the New York Jets after Week 7, and they never looked back after that as Etienne became the lead back and carried the team through the rest of the regular season and to the Divisional Round of the playoffs where they gave the eventually Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs all they could handle for three-plus quarters.
Even with starting last season in a timeshare, Etienne managed to finish the season ranked as the RB17 in PPR scoring. He finished last season with 1,125 rushing yards, 35 receptions on 45 targets for 316 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. What was really interesting was the fact that many believed he was drafted to be a receiving weapon out of the backfield, but he never caught more than three passes in any one game last season. All his late-season success led many of us to believe that he was going to be a workhorse back heading into 2023 and that he had the potential to be a top-ten fantasy running back, but then the Jaguars surprised us by taking a running back out of Auburn by the name of Tank Bigsby in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
After the NFL Draft had concluded in late April, everyone was buzzing about what was going to happen with the Jaguars’ backfield. Everyone thought that Bigsby being a bigger back at 6’0” and 213 pounds was going to be the between the tackles runner and the main goal-line back. All offseason everyone was letting Etienne drop a couple of rounds past where he should have been selected in many fantasy drafts, and Bigsby kept slowly moving up in the fantasy drafts to the point where I would see him drafted in Rounds 9 and 10 frequently. Everyone was convinced that Bigsby could be the lead back eventually in 2023, and Etienne would be more of the offensive weapon he was drafted to be in 2021. I even bought into the speculation that Bigsby was going to have a large role in the offense; towards the end of fantasy draft season, I was drafting him in Rounds 10 through 13 if he managed to make it that far. I was also fading Etienne at that point because I had so many shares of him already, especially in my Best Ball leagues. Unfortunately, for everyone, once the 2023 season started, we were going to be disappointed about drafting one of these players too high.
Once the 2023 regular season started, we thought we would see the same split of the backfield we saw to start the 2022 season in Jacksonville. We thought Bigsby and Etienne would be around a 55/45 split in touches, with whoever had the hot hand that day getting the majority share of the touches for that game, but that has not happened so far this season. This season has been all about Etienne showcasing his ability to be the lead running back and showing off his outstanding vision and pass-catching abilities. Etienne is currently the RB3 in PPR scoring through the first six weeks of the season. He has 451 rushing yards, 21 receptions on 24 targets for 172 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. Bigsby on the other hand is currently ranked as the RB68 in PPR scoring with just 43 rushing yards, one reception on three targets, and two touchdowns. So, it is easy to see that Etienne is currently the lead back in Jacksonville and he is showing why he was a first-round pick in 2021.
As for the backfield after this season, I would hold onto Bigsby in any Dynasty leagues, as he is a talented running back. He played very well during his colligate career at Auburn, and he tested well during the NFL combine, so I believe it is just a matter of time before he starts to see more touches during this season. Also, if you have Etienne on your fantasy team, you need to also have Bigsby just in case Etienne were to get hurt because then we would definitely see Bigsby as a big part of the offense.
As we can see now, Etienne is the lead back in this offense, and he will continue to be as long as he can stay healthy. He was a steal in most fantasy drafts this summer thanks to the hype around Bigsby. If you were lucky enough to draft him this year, you might just have a league winner on your hands.