Fantasy Football: Sony Michel Rookie Profile

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In the first two pieces of this offseason series, Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice were discussed as the cream of the crop in the 2018 rookie running back class. Naturally, there are numerous other names that fantasy owners should have on their radar leading up to the regular season. With that idea in mind, all attention will be focused on Sony Michel out of Georgia for this particular article. Often compared to Alvin Kamara based on his elusive and versatile skill set, Michel figures to make an immediate impact in fantasy football circles during his first NFL campaign. The question is, can the former Georgia Bulldog live up to such a lofty comparison? While I believe in his overall ability as a rusher and receiver out of the backfield, it is crucial to examine Michel’s athletic profile and collegiate resume to determine if his optimistic fantasy outlook is warranted or overstated.

NFL Scouting Combine Overview
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As a whole, Michel delivered disappointing numbers in comparison to other quality running backs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Given his body frame, a 4.54 forty time is respectable if not average. On a positive note, 22 bench press reps prove that Sony is stronger than given credit for at 5′ 11″ / 220 pounds. Based on his praise of being an agile and shifty athlete, it is rather surprising that Michel elected against showcasing his skills in the vertical or broad jump testing portions at the combine. Nonetheless, he delivered enough of a sample size on the college gridiron to demonstrate his versatility and impact on all levels of the field.

Collegiate Production
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As alluded to earlier in this article, Michel is often compared to that of Alvin Kamara coming out of college. The former split backfield work with Nick Chubb during his career at Georgia, while the latter filled a similar role at the University of Tennessee. A case can be made that both tailbacks were misused prior to the NFL, which has become a common theme for athletes making a transition to the professional landscape due to questionable personnel decisions among college head coaches.

Unlike other top peers in this class, Michel in particular endured numerous peaks and valleys of production across his four seasons in school. Both his freshman and junior campaigns amounted to a mixed bag of results, as Michel failed to eclipse 850 yards rushing in either season. Unsurprisingly, Chubb enjoyed two of his most prolific rushing campaigns in each of those years. In other words, Michel served a complimentary role to Chubb when both were healthy. Unless an NFL team allocates an early draft pick to the talented 22-year-old chess piece, I fear a similar trend could continue for Michel at the next level.

The case for Sony becoming a foundation piece of an offense is also fair to debate as he complied over 1,100 yards rushing in his sophomore and senior campaigns at Georgia. In the process, the impending rookie also established himself as a serviceable receiver after recording 26 receptions in 2015 alone. Due to a rather inconsistent usage rate at the collegiate level, Michel’s NFL career path is difficult to gauge. A starting tailback or sparingly used committee member are both possible outcomes for his workload moving forward, which leaves his value highly debated within the fantasy football community.

A potential red flag and necessary factor to consider around Michel’s NFL outlook is the fact that he fumbled 12 times during his college career, and lost 5 of them via turnover as a result. This is certainly an element of his game that will need improvement, as NFL coaches simply will not tolerate ball security issues of that magnitude.

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Fantasy Outlook

While it could be a contrarian viewpoint, I believe that there is a clear value gap between Barkley, Guice and Michel tier wise from a fantasy football outlook perspective. The Penn State and LSU products are equipped to become franchise running backs at the professional level, while Michel would be fortunate to earn such an opportunity. Let me be clear, Sony has the tools to be a primary tailback for an offense. In fact, he might possess the best combination of power and speed among all players at his position in this class. At the same time, he lacks the consistent pedigree outside of his breakout 2017 season to justify the label of being a foolproof asset.

In redraft leagues, Michel figures to be selected as soon as the third rookie running back overall this upcoming season. For dynasty purposes, he is viewed as a consensus top four pick in rookie drafts because of his age and dual threat ability. In fact, his ADP is already inside the top fifty players overall in startup drafts this offseason. Overall, fantasy owners should prepare to allocate a significant amount of draft capital to secure Michel’s services as a rookie. As I mentioned at various times in this article, I believe in Sony’s talent. However, I am not sold that the current level of hype Michel is earning is realistic due to the player comparisons he is receiving.

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