Rookie Rundown: RB Sony Michel, Georgia

Rookie Rundown: RB Sony Michel, Georgia

NFL Draft

Rookie Rundown: RB Sony Michel, Georgia

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

The Georgia Bulldogs ended with a 13-2 record after losing the National Championship to Alabama in overtime.  It was the culmination of four years of sharing the backfield for Michel and Nick Chubb. While Chubb carried a heavier load, Michel had a higher yards-per-carry average. The duo combined for 379 carries for 2,572 yards and 32 touchdowns last year.

Height: 5-11
Weight: 215 pounds
40 time: 4.54 seconds

Chubb was the primary running back in all years other than 2015 when he injured his knee and Michel took over and rushed for a career-best 218 carries and 26 receptions. Michel was effective and productive but played the 1-B to Chubbs 1-A when both were healthy.

What impacts the draft prospects for both players was the final two bowl games they played this year. While Chubb ran for 145 yards and two scores in the win over the Sooners, Michel gained 181 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and added four catches for 41 yards and a fourth score as a receiver. In the Championship game, Chubb was held to only 25 yards on 18 runs by the Crimson Tide while Michel ran for 98 yards on 14 carries. Those final two games undoubtedly helped move Michel up in the draft.

Michel may have even passed Chubb at least on some draft boards.

Year Games Runs Yards Avg. TD Catches Yards Avg. TD Total Yards Total TDs
2014 8 64 410 6.4 5 7 106 15.1 1 516 6
2015 13 218 1136 5.2 8 26 270 10.4 3 1406 11
2016 12 152 840 5.5 4 22 149 6.8 1 989 5
2017 14 156 1227 7.9 16 9 96 10.7 1 1323 17

Pros

  •  Diverse skill set. Not only accomplished as a rusher, but a very capable receiver and even noted for pass protection ability. Four years in college allowed him more experience in pass pro than Chubb who was the primary rusher.
  • Willingness to share the load but ability to be the main back. Was paired with Chubb all four years but both were competitive friends and never rivals. Talent would have translated into a heavier workload at almost any other college.
  • Sharing workload at Georgia means enters the NFL with more tread on his tires than similarly talented running backs.
  • Can fit any scheme. Capable in all facets of the offense and can become the primary rusher, third-down back or whatever role he is given. Excellent at picking up the blitz.
  •  Drew comparisons to NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara by NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock. “The more I watch Sony Michel, the more I think Sony Michel can make an impact like Alvin Kamara in the run game. I think he has burst acceleration, better toughness than people think, better contact balance than I expected,” Mayock said. Other scouts have made the same assessment.
  • Decisive runner who can be aggressive but has excellent vision, burst, and lateral movement that can get him to the edge or find wherever the best opening is. Big enough to drag defenders and shifty enough to turn in big gains.

Cons

  • Must fix handling issues – lost nine fumbles at Georgia.
  • Capable receiver but totaled just 64 catches over four years. Route running needs to be tightened.
  • Productive in college but ran behind one of the best offensive lines.

Fantasy outlook

Michel could be the second back taken or fall back enough to only be the fifth or sixth. Without those final two high-profile games, he would more likely have the same outlook as Kamara who fell to the third round. His comparison to Kamara greatly boosts his appeal.

He can be used in a tandem backfield as he was in college. That opens almost every NFL team to consider him. Most believe that he’ll end up at the end of the first round or the top half of the second round. That opens him up to any NFL team and it would be no surprise to see a team trade up to get him if he falls into the second round.

The three teams he is most associated with so far are the Redskins, Panthers, Lions, and Buccaneers. The Skins are looking for running back help and Samaje Perrine only rushed for a 3.4-yard average. The Panthers met with him at the NFL combine and have moved on from Jonathan Stewart. They need someone new to pair with Christian McCaffery.

The Lions are moving forward in a rebuilding year and have realized that fragile Ameer Abdullah is not the answer. Having added LeGarrette Blount may seem to reduce the need for a back but he only signed for one year and $2 million. And the Buccaneers would be a tremendous spot for him to land. They dumped Doug Martin and are only pretending to be happy with Peyton Barber as the primary rusher.

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