Sony Michel Is Yet Another Versatile Weapon in the New England Patriots' Offense
After the Trent Richardson debacle of 2012, we didn't see a single running back drafted in the first round in 2013 or 2014. The next few drafts saw a resurgence for the position though, with Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon in 2015, Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 and Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey in 2017.
The hyped-up 2018 draft class saw three running backs go in the first round. Sony Michel was the second taken among them, going 31st overall to the New England Patriots.
Who Is Sony Michel?
Michel's four years at Georgia began with him producing well in a limited role as a true freshman and quickly expanded to see him run the ball at least 150 times in each of his next three seasons, catching at least 20 passes in 2 of those 3 years.
Physically, nothing about Michel really stands out as special. Per Mockdraftable, he ranks in the 72nd percentile among running backs in bench press but below 60th in every other combine measurement we have from him. They list Spencer Ware and Chris Thompson as his closest physical comparisons. It's worth noting that these measurements don't include the vertical jump, broad jump or 3-cone, in which he didn't complete at the combine.
His production and workload stack up much more favorably, though.
Despite playing with another hot running back prospect in Nick Chubb, PlayerProfiler has Michel ranked in the top half in dominator rating (share of his team's yards and touchdowns) as well as in the 88th percentile in their yards per carry measurement.
He also offers value as a receiver. He caught only nine passes in his senior year, but he did have those back-to-back seasons with at least 22 receptions, and his 10.4% target share ranks in the 74th percentile for running backs, per PlayerProfiler.
This ability to contribute in both the rushing and passing game is valuable, but how does he fit in with the Patriots' offense?
Michel in New England
A guy that provides versatility out of the backfield is nothing new for the Patriots.
With Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead catching passes out of the backfield before it was cool, the Pats didn't shy away from continuing to utilize versatile backs when the trend caught on with Shane Vereen and James White also seeing plenty of work. When they added Dion Lewis, though, he gave them something different: a skilled pass-catcher who was also their best runner.
Over his last 11 games of the 2017 regular season, Lewis averaged 14.6 carries and 2.3 receptions per game. He led the Pats in carries while also ranking seventh on the team in targets, and his departure for Tennessee leaves a big void in the backfield that Michel will have a chance to help fill.
Being part of a winning, high-scoring offense is big for production at the running back position, and there's no better place for that than New England. They led the NFL in Adjusted Offensive Net Expected Points (NEP) per play in 2017 after ranking second in 2016, and with Tom Brady under center for at least one more season, this offense is going to continue to offer a ton of upside.