2018 Rookie Class: An Early Look at Sony Michel

Richard Jenkins

Editor’s note: ahead of a huge day of college football action, make sure you check out today’s early Bowl Game Previews, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl Previews, and all of our 2018 Rookie Profiles. Before you know it, it will be NFL draft day!

In a draft that’s already running back heavy, a career backup may not be very high on NFL teams’ big boards. After playing second fiddle to Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, Sony Michel is out to show that he has elite running back potential as well.

As a Recruit

A five-star recruit (0.9905 composite score according to 247sports) out of Florida, Michel played football and ran track while in high school. As a senior on the gridiron he rushed for 1,833 yards and 24 touchdowns, and was the sixth-ranked running back in the class of 2014. He was also a district champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash as a sophomore in track and field.

Michel committed to the University of Georgia as part of the 2014 recruiting class. One scout said that “Michel is an elite running back that will be college-ready the day he steps on campus”. He received offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State among others.

Collegiate Career

Backing up both Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb as a true freshman, Michel played in eight games in 2014. He missed five games due to a fractured shoulder blade.

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When Nick Chubb went down with an injury early in the sixth game of the year in 2015, Michel got his first chance to be the true starter. Michel carried the ball at least 20 times in seven of eight games and averaged 120 yards per game in those contests. His career high 165 yards rushing came against Kentucky that year.

Despite such a strong showing in his time as the starter, Michel spent the entire 2016 and 2017 seasons splitting time once again with Chubb. Michel has averaged 12 and 11 carries per game in those seasons, respectively. What’s most impressive about his numbers is that he has a 5.9 yards per carry average over the past three years, which includes at least 130 carries per season over that span.

Athletic Profile

Sony Michel stands at 5’11” and 212 pounds, and the first obvious comparison that comes to mind for me is Aaron Jones. Both backs are “smaller”, but have incredible acceleration and quickness and they can bust through arm tackles. Similar to Jones when he had the starting gig in Green Bay, I believe that Michel can be an every-down workhorse back.

Michel has a recorded 4.50 forty yard dash while in high school, and he has shown great straight-line speed as a one cut-and-go runner. His in-pad GPS has recorded him going as fast as 22.0 mph on one play, which puts him in the same speed category as guys like Gurley, Leonard Fournette, and Tevin Coleman. In fact, Bleacher Report published an article in 2013 when Michel was a senior in high school, comparing him to fellow senior Fournette.


  • Straight-line speed.
  • Breaks through arm tackles.
  • Great feet. He can make sharp cuts on a dime.
  • Underrated as a pass receiver.
  • Never saw a full load of carries for an entire season, meaning he has plenty of tread left on the tires.


  • In what can be regarded a strength and a weakness, Michel never got the bulk of the carries for an entire season. Can his body hold up?
  • Is he injury prone? He missed at least one game due to injury in three of four college seasons.
  • Will his size keep him from being a goal line back?

Draft Projection

In another class loaded with running back talent, the odds are stacked against Michel to even be a day two draft pick. He is an elusive runner who will rise on many draft boards after his combine and pro day. He will ultimately be selected based on his potential, and has a chance to come in and compete for a team’s number two slot on their depth chart early in his career.

What I’m Watching for on Monday, and Quick Notes:

  • How much usage will Sony Michel see in the running game? Will he have a chance to further show off his skills in front of a larger audience?
  • If Georgia is forced to throw to keep up with Oklahoma and the blistering Baker Mayfield, will Michel see the bulk of the snaps in the passing game?
  • Oklahoma has the 41st-ranked defense against the run, giving up 144 yards per game. Can Georgia make things happen on the ground? And how much of it will be through Michel?
  • Georgia has the tenth-ranked rushing offense, averaging 263.5 yards per game. Again, while they have a top offense, they spread the ball around to a large group of talented runners. What opportunities will Michel have in this game?