From quarterback to wide receiver to offensive tackle to linebacker to safety, there are several different directions the Washington Football Team can go with its first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
However, one position that Washington has not been linked to at all by many draft experts is running back. It makes sense, too, as rushers rarely are coming off the board before the last few picks in the first round anymore (unless your name is Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott) and Washington is already pretty set at the position.
Yet, in NFL Network analyst Peter Schrager's latest mock draft, the Good Morning Football host has Washington going against conventional wisdom and selecting Clemson running back Travis Etienne 19th overall.
Well, let's at least see Schrager's explanation.
"First-round running backs might be a dying breed, but I love this addition to Scott Turner's offense. Etienne is electric between the tackles and in the open field as a ball carrier, but also adds value in the passing game. Washington still needs another playmaker or two on offense to be a threat in the NFC," Schrager wrote.
Sure, Schrager is right about a bunch of things. Yes, first-round running backs are "a dying breed." Yes, Etienne would be a welcome addition to offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense. And yes, Washington does still need more talent on offense.
But despite all this, Washington should absolutely not select a running back in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
For starters, this is not a knock on Etienne by any means. The Clemson star has an argument as the best running back in this class. His resume speaks for itself, as he's been named a consensus All-American twice, ACC Player of the Year twice and is a three-time first-team All-ACC selection. He's excellent and will be a welcome addition to whichever team ultimately drafts him.
Yet, the last thing Washington needs to do is ignore its other, bigger needs by selecting a running back in the first round. In Schrager's mock, Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman and TCU safety Trevon Moehrig are all still on the board when WFT selected Etienne. All three of those players would fill a more pressing need immediately for Washington than the Clemson running back and have arguably just as much of a ceiling as Etienne does.
There's also no reason for Washington to take a running back that early, especially with the current depth it has at the position. The 2020 third-round pick Antonio Gibson had an excellent rookie season and will only get better. J.D. McKissic is coming off an 80-catch campaign, the most receptions any running back not named Alvin Kamara totaled last season. And, Washington still has Peyton Barber and Lamar Miller under contract, two veterans who can step in if needed.
If the Burgundy and Gold are looking to add another playmaker early on, it should be at wide receiver. Yes, the club did add Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries in free agency to play alongside rising star Terry McLaurin, but the group could still use another elite talent. In a draft class full of potential stars once again, receiver is the position to target early on when trying to get a high-impact skill position player on offense, not running back.
For Washington, taking a running back during the 2021 NFL Draft is certainly a possibility. After all, Washington has selected at least one rusher in 12 consecutive years.
But, as we've learned over the past several drafts, talented running backs can be found anywhere. Just look at Aaron Jones or even last year in James Robinson. Plus, there are a ton of likely Day 3 options this year at running back that could potentially provide an immediate impact.
By holding the No. 19 overall pick, Washington is in an interesting position for a team that doesn't have one specific need that far outweighs the others. Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew said last week that everything is on the table come April 29 and that certainly appears to be true.
Travis Etienne, or any running back, shouldn't be.