By all accounts, Sony Michel had a terrific rookie season. The 31st overall selection of the NFL’s 2018 draft proved himself a reliable addition to the New England Patriots, and a key cog in the team’s offensive machinery. He saw regular playing time as the club’s top early-down and goal-line back, and finished the regular season with a combined 209 carries for 931 yards and 6 touchdowns while appearing in thirteen games.
Michel’s numbers also made him a popular option in fantasy football. After all, the Georgia product averaged 10.2 points per game for which he was active — solid numbers one should expect to improve even further in case the running back was able to make the famed second-year jump this season. Not all are convinced of that, however, as a recent story by Pro Football Focus titled ‘Overvalued running backs in 2019’ shows.
Michel is one of the four players listed, and author James Ratcliffe presents the following reasoning behind it:
[...] Michel has been dealing with a pesky knee injury that has sidelined him for much of the offseason. The Patriots also drafted a very similar player in Damien Harris out of Alabama. Fully healthy, Michel is worth a look as an RB2, but that’s far from a guarantee at this point. Given these questions, the turn of the third/fourth round in 12-team leagues is too early to consider him. A round later at the four/five turn is a much better spot to be looking his way.
Ratcliffe’s rationale behind naming Michel an ‘overvalued’ running back is rather reasonable. While the 24-year-old was outstanding in 2018, he is heading into his second year in the league with two major questions surrounding him:
1.) Will his knee allow him to play a full season?
2.) Will Harris’ addition impact his fantasy numbers?
At least as things stand right now, question number one should not be an issue this season: Michel is expected to be ready for training camp despite undergoing a knee arthroscopy earlier this offseason. The second question, on the other hand, could significantly impact his fantasy outlook for 2019: Harris is projected to serve as the 1B runner alongside Michel and as such potentially take over in goal-line and short-yardage situations.
Goal-line duties in particular could hurt Michel’s fantasy numbers as four of his six regular season touchdowns came from inside the 5-yard line. While a limited usage would potentially be a good thing for the second-year man and the Patriots offense as a whole, fantasy owners may have to think twice about investing in Michel in one of the early rounds.