The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of the Patriots’ two first-round picks this year.
Name: Sony Michel
Position: Running back
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #51)
Opening day age: 23
Size: 5’11, 215 lbs.
2017 review: Sony Michel entered his 2017 senior season as one half of Georgia’s dynamic backfield duo, alongside Nick Chubb. While Chubb was the team’s de-facto starter and led the Bulldogs in both attempts and rushing yards, Michel was the more efficient player of the two: Overall, he carried the football 156 times for 1,227 yards and a career-best average of 7.9 yards per run. He also set a new career-high in rushing touchdowns with 16.
While Michel was one of college football’s most dynamic running backs due to his excellent acceleration and ability to react to the blocks in front of him, he also was frequently featured in the passing game. Michel, who appeared in all 14 of Georgia’s games last season, caught nine passes for 96 yards and one touchdown and also regularly served as a pass protector and in blitz-pickup.
Georgia’s offensive captain was effective no matter the quality of opponents. In his team’s six games against teams ranked in the final AP poll, Michel carried the football a combined 61 times for 450 yards and four scores – with his best performance of the season coming against number three Oklahoma: During the Bulldogs’ Rose Bowl win, Michel registered 11 runs for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
Given his productivity and upside, Michel entered draft season as one of the most intriguing running back prospects of his class. Solid performances during the scouting combine and his pro day further manifested Michel as a potential day one selection – and that is exactly what he became in late April.
2018 preview: When Dion Lewis left the Patriots as a free agent in March, the Patriots were in need of a new lead running back. And while Mike Gillislee and offseason acquisition Jeremy Hill are both potential options to fill the void, New England decided to also invest a high draft pick at the position: the team selected Michel 31st overall, making him the logical heir to Lewis’ role in the offense.
Whether he will be just that in 2018 remains to be seen – Lewis, after all, played 36.7% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps last season and led the team in attempts, yards and touchdowns on the ground. However, the rookie will be given every chance over the course of training camp to earn a prominent spot in New England’s backfield rotation. Ultimately, it would therefore not be a surprise to see Michel get regular playing time this year.
Early on during the season, the Georgia product will likely rotate in and out of the lineup more often and share early down snaps with one of Gilleslee and Hill as well as Rex Burkhead. As the season progresses and Michel gets more comfortable playing in one of the NFL’s most complex offenses, he ideally is given more responsibilities and a bigger role to prove why New England opted to invest a first-round selection in him.