5 local program draft prospects the Panthers could select in 2021

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Chazz Surratt
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Chazz Surratt /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Travis Etienne /

Travis Etienne – RB (Clemson)

All-Pro Christian McCaffrey is still the Carolina Panthers’ star despite a frustrating 2020 season through injury problems that saw the running back turn out in just three games shortly after signing a bumper new four-year, $64 million deal with a $21 million signing bonus and $38 million guaranteed.

Although the University of South Carolina’s Mike Davis proved to be a quality backup last season, Clemson stud Travis Etienne would be a nice upgrade in the primary backup spot behind McCaffrey.

Etienne was part of a senior class that carried the Tigers to four ACC titles, four College Football Playoff berths, two national championship appearances, and a national title in 2018.

Despite his senior season being less productive, the running back was still named First-Team All ACC and showed glimpses of tremendous promise that he can take into the NFL.

The tricky part for the Panthers is that most draft analysts have given Etienne a mid-to-late first-round grade. He is an explosive runner, especially in the open field, and is also a great pass-catching back like McCaffrey and Davis.

Another notable element to his game that shouldn’t be overlooked is Etienne’s pass protection, which improved significantly in 2020.

Taking him at with the No. 8 overall selection would be a mind-boggling decision and there’s no guarantee he’ll be available in round two. Scott Fitterer and Matt Rhule could trade down and draft him, but this is far from a position of need on the Panthers and even less so if they bring Davis back in free agency.