by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
When the New England Patriots drafted Sony Michel 31st overall we thought we may finally get clarity in the Patriots running back corps. Generally impossible to predict, you don’t use a first round pick on a running back unless you anticipate them carrying the load.
Unfortunately the recent news throws a little bit of a wrench in those plans. According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss (click here for the article):
New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel underwent a procedure to drain fluid from his knee after leaving Wednesday’s practice and is expected to be sidelined for at least 10 days, according to sources. While the recovery process could extend beyond 10 days, it is not expected to affect Michel’s availability for a significant portion, if any, of the regular season.
While it clearly isn’t a significant issue, losing the preseason is going to cost him vital reps with the first team offense. Expecting him to hit the ground running would be misguided, especially with the team having alternatives to help shoulder the load. Michel was already expected to share carries with Rex Burkhead and James White, and this news will likely send him to the back of the depth chart for at least the first few weeks.
That said once healthy would it really be a surprise to see Michel rise quickly and take the bulk of the early down work? Prior to the draft Walter Football compared him to Matt Forte, saying:
Team sources have told me that they feel Michel is a shorter version of Matt Forte. That makes sense because Forte was an excellent runner during his NFL career, showing dynamic quickness, receiving ability, elusiveness, and the ability to contribute in a variety of ways.
It’s easy to forget that Forte was once among the better running backs in the league, posting six season of at least 1,000 rushing yards (and eight straight of 929 or more, including a 997 yard campaign, which came in just 12 games). From 2010-2013 he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, so don’t take the comparison lightly.
With White & Burkhead bringing pass catching ability, Michel will likely operate more as an early down back. Still he showed a nose for the end zone (16 TD in his final season at Georgia) and once healthy could quickly rise into the lead back role.
The injury could create an opportunity, as fantasy owners shy away given the stigma of being a Patriots’ running back. That said between Dion Lewis & Mike Gillislee there are 284 carries available, with 60% or more likely to go to Michel once healthy (that would mean 170 carries over the full season, though we’d expect a few less given the early season concerns). If his draft day ADP starts to fall, don’t be afraid to scoop him up and stash him on your bench (that said, at his current ADP of 56.4 we’d rather select Royce Freeman, considering the early season concerns).
Sources – ESPN, Walter Football
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 preseason rankings: