With the 31st overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots pulled a surprising move to some and selected Georgia running back Sony Michel. Serving as the counterpart to fellow Georgia alum Nick Chubb, the senior running back had a stellar 2017 season. Rushing for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging nearly eight yards per carry, Michel broke out as one of the best running backs in the rookie class.
Throughout his four year college career, Michel gained 4,234 yards from scrimmage and 39 total touchdowns, earning Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s comparison to Alvin Kamara and becoming a top RB entering the draft. The LWOS NFL division recently analyzed Michel’s draft profile, which can be found here.
As of April 26th, Michel will be joining a well-equipped Patriots backfield which already features the likes of James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden, and Jeremy Hill. Michel will also be running behind his former college roommate, Isaiah Wynn, who came to the Patriots via the 23rd overall selection. While many fans expected the Patriots to add a rookie running back at some point, it came as a surprise to many fans for it to come in the first round. Under the Bill Belichick era in New England, the Patriots have only one first round running back: Laurence Maroney in 2006.
As surprising as it may be, Sony Michel is a Patriot. In his rookie season going forward, what can fans realistically expect from their newest running back? In this article, we will break down realistic expectations for Michel’s rookie season, and his potential impact with the Patriots come September.
Predicting New England Patriots’ Rookie Sony Michel’s Rookie Impact
The Patriots have always used a crowded backfield. The value in having multiple guys in the backfield, who can all contribute different skills, defines the Patriot way. The team typically uses a pass-catcher, ground-and-pounder, and a do-it-all back. The first two roles seem to be filled with the likes of James White and whoever wins the competition between Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee, respectively. Rex Burkhead is able to contribute in multiple aspects of the game as well, resembling the Patriots’ closest thing to a do-it-all back prior to the draft.
However, the Patriots struck gold when they uncovered former Philadelphia Eagles’ 149th overall pick Dion Lewis. Lewis, after bouncing around multiple teams, found his home in New England and ran with it. In his Patriots’ tenure, Lewis accumulated just under 1,400 yards from scrimmage, providing a dual-threat for the offense.
Unfortunately, Lewis signed a four year deal with the Tennessee Titans this past March, leaving the Patriots with an empty backfield spot. Enter Sony Michel. During his four seasons at Georgia, Michel showed he has the ability to contribute in every aspect of the game. Michel flashed true between the tackles power running behind a stellar Georgia offensive line. He also showed quicker speed than his 4.54 40-yard dash, with an ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He possesses terrific vision and a burst that should translate perfectly to the Patriots system. Michel will offer a potential upgrade over Lewis, and gives the Patriots a nightmare match up for any opposing defense. He has the potential to open up the offense and become the three down back the Patriots rarely have. In any case, Michel’s impact with New England should be immediate and forceful.
Predicting the Rookie Stat Line
It is always difficult to predict the stat line for a rookie running back – especially with the Patriots. However, Bill Belichick saw something special in Michel to select him in the first round. He should step right in where Dion Lewis left off in New England. What’s more, the comparisons to Alvin Kamara symbolize his potential impact as well.
In 2017, Kamara gained 728 yards rushing and 826 receiving, combining for 13 total TDs. While Michel may be limited by a crowded backfield, expect his numbers to not drop off much from Kamara’s. In his own right, Kamara served as the counterpart to Mark Ingram which limited his own production.
In 2018, expect Michel to break into the NFL stage the same way as Kamara. Michel’s current projections are as follows: 700 rushing yards, 650 receiving yards, and roughly 10 TDs. His combination of downhill power and open field agility should put Michel a step above his remaining Patriots’ backfield mates. Expect big things from the Patriots second first-round pick.
Last Word on Sony Michel
Overall, a slight drop off from what Kamara produced in 2017 can be expected. The Patriots have long utilized multiple running backs to remain versatile and unpredictable. That does not look likely to change. However, Bill Belichick is not completely against a change in style, which is exemplified in this selection in general.
Patriots fans may not see the value in drafting a running back in the first round, but Michel is different. Michel is no Saquon Barkley, but should prove a valuable piece to the Patriots for years to come. Fans should be excited for the new look Patriots rushing attack.
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