The Patriots are mostly set at the RB position with Rex Burkhead and James White locked up for the next 3 years. After losing Dion Lewis in free agency, the Patriots signed former Bengals RB Jeremy Hill and brought in free agent RB Orleans Darkwa for a visit. Hill and Darkwa would hypothetically compete with Mike Gillislee for the 3rd RB role in the rotation and the primary rusher in the committee. The draft is solid at the RB position for the Patriots to pick up a potential starter on the 2nd day, although the most intriguing prospect in my opinion is Georgia’s Sony Michel.
Michel has potential 3-down value as a player who can run, catch, and pick up blitzes for the Patriots. It’s unlikely the Patriots will play Michel that way with White and Burkhead in the fold and a big part of the team’s offense, but his versatile skill set will give the Patriots more leeway to call plays without tipping the defense. Michel was also a two-year captain for Georgia, which is always a plus to add leadership to the locker room. Michel has played with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb and has produced over those 4 years at Georgia even as the #2 back all those seasons.
Vs. Notre Dame 2017
In this cut-up, Michel should good technique in blitz pickup and solid vision for cutback lanes as he was able to find open field. His open-field speed is very average overall, so there isn’t anything special in his game other than being able to do everything good enough. His ability to pick up blitzes and be a decent pass receiver has utility in the Patriots offense.
vs. Alabama (National Championship)
Michel once again shows solid technique in blitz pickup and is more physical running the ball than against Notre Dame.
Michel doesn’t have the speed to outrun defenders to the edge, so most of his damage will have to come between the tackles. He’s not great in breaking tackles, but runs behind his pads well enough to succeed in that department. Michel does have some utility in the passing game as both a receiver and to pick up blitzes although the Patriots have White and Burkhead signed up long term, so the team is more than set in that department. If the Patriots did pick up Michel, they probably carry 5 backs (White, Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Michel, Mike Gillislee/Jeremy Hill) and James Develin as part of the backfield.
Rookie Year Projection
Michel would play right away and immediately compete for playing time on offense as the lead carrier in the committee. Michel is solid in pass pro and running routes in the backfield, so they have that added dimension although Michel doesn’t have Burkhead’s short area quickness. As a more credible receiving threat than Gillislee, Michel would see a lot less 8-man boxes, so there would be more room. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was also in the running for the kick returner role immediately, a role he did in college as well.
Long Term Projection
For the most part, Michel’s projection would be the same year-to-year as part of a 3-headed monster in the backfield with White and Burkhead. In terms of rush/receptions splits I expect it to break out as 175/25 for Michel, 100/50 for Burkhead, and 60/60 for White with those three there. Michel’s solid ability in pass-pro allows for the Patriots to attack the deep and intermediate areas of the field off play-action when he’s on the field.
Grade: 5/5 Starter
Player Comp: Knowshon Moreno
Like another former Georgia RB, Michel is more of an efficiency rusher who can get what the line blocks and a bit more, but isn’t as exceptional at creating yards after contact like Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount were capable of doing in New England.
Draft Projection: Between 43 and 63
Michel is a bit rich at 43 and there’s a good chance he’s off the board by 63 if there are teams interested in a lead committee back. There’s a lot of value as a rusher and in pass pro on early downs, but the receiving part of his game needs to improve if he wants to be a 3-down back.