The New England Patriots certainly had an interested draft, from picking an undersized offensive tackle that might be best suited to play on the interior in round one, to the selection of a developmental quarterback no sooner than round seven. In between – at pick number 31 –, the Patriots also opted to make a somewhat surprising decision by drafting a first-round running back for the first time since 2006.
New England did buck the trend of not investing high selections in running backs for good reason, though, as Georgia's Sony Michel is an intriguing addition to the team's offense as both a runner, pass catcher and pass protector. It would therefore not be a surprise to see him receive plenty of playing time and touches early on in his career with the team, and make an immediate impact as a three-down back.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green sees it the same way. The fellow Georgia product recently joined ESPN's Adam Schefter on his podcast and was also asked about last week's draft. When asked about which of the six ex-Bulldogs selected he thinks will leave “the biggest mark at the next level”, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft, said that he likes them all but sees Michel as having the biggest impact.
“I love Sony,” Green said. “You know his versatility and him going to New England – that's my pick for Rookie of the Year. Mark it down.” When asked why that is the case, the seven-time Pro Bowler said that he had seen him play: “I know how versatile he is. When [...] you put him in a system like New England's where he can be out there running routes and in the backfield – all the stuff going on against linebackers.”
The versatility Green mentions certainly has to play a big role why the Patriots opted to invest in Michel: During his three years as a top rotational option at Georgia, Michel averaged 175 rushing attempts and 19 catches per year, gaining on average 1239 yards from scrimmage each season. Whether he will be able to continue this success at the next level and by extension make Green's pick turn into reality remains to be seen.
Michel certainly has landed with a team, though, that will likely know how to use his abilities.