Welcome to the 20/20 series. As part of our continued Dynasty Scouts coverage and in preparation for the NFL Combine, we will be profiling 20 of the top incoming rookies of the class of 2018 by giving you 20 facts you must know.
1.) Player name – Sony Michel
2) College – Georgia
3.) Height/Weight – 5’11”, 215 lbs
4.) Birth date – 2/17/95 (23 today)
5.) Class – Senior
6.) College stats – 2014-17: 590 carries for 3,613 yards, 64 receptions for 621 yards, 39 total touchdowns
7.) NFL Draft round projection – First or second round. Michel is more “very good” than “elite” at any single thing, but has few major weaknesses and nice versatility. If a team values his multiple dimensions, it’d be no surprise to see him taken in the first round. Additionally, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Damien Harris and Bryce Love decided to stay in college. Michel was taken 36th overall in Matt Miller’s mock draft on February fifth.
8.) Current NFL comp – A rich man’s Jerick McKinnon. I’m not great at finding comparable players for draft prospects, and the case is no different here. The comparison I’ve seen most in my research is Kareem Hunt. But aside from passing game acumen, there’s really not much similar about the two. The “more good everywhere than special anywhere” idea of Michel’s skill set that I have reminds me a lot of Joe Mixon, but the two also have quite different running styles. I’m also tempted to say a slightly-lesser version of Todd Gurley, but am afraid that the college jersey is the cause. Ultimately, McKinnon is a great athlete, capable of a lot of things, and has a similar frame to Michel’s, so I’ll go with him.
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9.) Best possible destination – If Le’Veon Bell departs from Pittsburgh, the Steelers would be an awesome spot for Michel. The Steelers offensive line ranks in the top ten of Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards, so he’d be the benefactor of plenty running lanes. In the passing game, meanwhile, he’d get to step into a role that gave Bell 85 receptions in 15 games last season.
10. Worst possible destination – The Dolphins will likely search for an upgraded workhorse back from Kenyan Drake, and here’s hoping it’s not Sony. The Miami offensive line is one of the league’s worst, statistically. In 2017, Drake, Jay Ajayi, and Damien Williams combined for just 66 receptions across 34 total games. If Michel can’t get room to operate in either the running game or the passing game, his production will plummet.
11.) Best current skill – Athleticism in space. Michel’s agility, speed, and acceleration all graded out near the top of this running back class. Logically, he’s an easy bet to break off big plays when he sees daylight. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it’s critical for him to get those opportunities.
12.) Skill that needs to be improved – Vision. The Bulldog has shown flashes of instant lane recognition but needs to become more consistent before I feel entirely confident in his NFL prospects. Still, his vision is much closer to “average” than “bad,” so it’s not necessarily a problem.
13.) Past/Current Rookie ADP – Michel held an average draft position of 4.3 in DLF’s February rookie data. Similarly, DLF’s Dynasty Scouts (myself included) have him fourth, between Courtland Sutton and Calvin Ridley. He is firmly placed near the front of the tier behind Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice.
14.) Projected dynasty value – As is the case for any ball carrier, much of Michel’s value is tied to his landing spot. Best-case scenario, he heads to a team like the Steelers. There, he’ll receive a healthy load of great looks, which his talent allows him to make the best of, particularly in space. Worst-case scenario, he flounders behind a poor offensive line and gets a couple token receptions per game. The spread is obviously pretty wide, but he has the talent to earn volume wherever he goes, which ensures a decent floor. An outcome in the middle probably gives him per-game touches in the teens, good-not-great efficiency, and a couple big plays from one game to the next. All things considered, that’s a pretty decent outcome.
15.) Consistent, explosive, consistently explosive – In 2017, Michel finished in college football’s elite in Bill Connelly’s highlight yards per opportunity and opportunity rate metrics (scroll down to “Individual Rushing Stats”), which measure explosiveness and efficiency, respectively. Amazingly, it turns out that being both extremely efficient and one of college football’s greatest big-play threats leads to great per-play numbers. Michel gained 7.9 yards per carry in his senior season. This was good for fifth in the NCAA and first in the SEC. In any backfield that didn’t feature two other studs like Nick Chubb and D’Andre Swift, Michel would receive more work and Heisman attention with it.
16.) Broke out on big stages – Between 2017’s SEC Championship and the ensuing College Football Playoff, Michel pitched in 32 carries for 324 yards (10.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, and six receptions for 79 yards and another score against Auburn, Oklahoma, and Alabama. That’ll do.
17.) Run finisher – Michel is well-built, though not particularly big. Thankfully, that doesn’t take away from his mental edge one bit. Time and time again, you’ll see Michel lower his shoulders and deliver a blow with undying legs. A strong running attitude is an absolute necessity for any back to be successful, and Michel certainly checks that box.
18.) Elusive potential – When properly harnessed, Michel’s agility is, simply put, devastating. He’s made a couple defenders look absolutely foolish in his college games when keeping his feet and brain on the same page. However, it hasn’t always been there for him, and he’s looked plan-less in space more often than I’d like to see. If he gains a better understanding of when and how to put a tackler off balance, though? Watch out.
19.) Friday night stud – Michel entered the Georgia football program as one of the most highly-touted players in the high school class of 2014. The 2013 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year, he ranked 20th nationally in 247sports 2014 rankings. This was accompanied by a .9905 247sports composite rating.
20.) One more Bulldog – The Florida native is the newest member of a long line of great Georgia Bulldog running backs. Of course, this has little to do with his professional prospects. Still, we have the combined efforts of Kirby Smart and Mark Richt to thank for bringing in some of this generation’s best rushing talent. As Swift prepares for Year Two and another stud – Zamir White – heads to Athens, here’s to more of the same for years to come.
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