After trading Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams, the Patriots entered the 2018 NFL Draft armed with two first-round selections. Plenty of scenarios surfaced as to what the Patriots would do given their need in certain areas. The general consensus was that they would ultimately hold on to the picks and select an offensive lineman and perhaps a linebacker. A small segment of fans thought they may use their draft capital to move up and select a quarterback.
Well, the Patriots did use the 23rd overall pick on an offensive lineman when they selected Isaiah Wynn out of Georgia. However, in a bit of surprise, the Patriots selected Wynn’s teammate, running back Sony Michel with the 31st overall pick. It is the first time in over a decade since the Patriots selected a running back in the first round. The last, of course, being Laurence Maroney in 2006.
The team certainly had a need at the position after the departure of Dion Lewis earlier in the offseason. After hearing him speak following the draft, it makes sense why Bill Belichick and company decided to not wait and select him in the first round.
“I would just say me, as a player, I wouldn’t consider myself a person that can critique styles,” said Michel in his introductory press conference following the draft. “I would just say I’m a coachable person, so anyway that a coach can coach me to play, I think I have the ability to learn and kind of grasp that information and kind of just put that out on the field.”
Michel is a “no-nonsense” runner according to his profile on NFL.com. He doesn’t possess the quickness and agility that Lewis has. However, his north-south style and decisive decisions rarely lead to negative yardage. These skills helped him amass over 3,500 yards in four seasons at Georgia.
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In the latter half of the year, Lewis turned into the closest thing to a featured back the Patriots have had for a long time. Through the final 10 games of the regular season, Lewis averaged 15 carries for 74 yards. He amassed over 20 carries in each of the last two weeks of the season. It’s quite possible that Belichick and Josh McDaniels see similar production potential from Michel. In his final season at Georgia, Michel logged 156 rushing attempts for 1,227 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns.
If that’s the case, Michel seems to be the perfect compliment to Rex Burkhead and James White who posses better receiving potential. That’s not to say Michel lacks that ability. Quite the opposite. Michel had 64 career receptions at Georgia for 660 yards and six touchdowns. However, the more he focussed on running, the fewer passing targets he received. His 7.9 yards per rushing attempt more than made up for it.
“To me, he’s a do-it-all running back,” said teammate and fellow first-round pick Isaiah Wynn following the draft. “He can run. He can catch. He’ll make somebody miss in the open field. He won’t dodge hits.”
— Ian Steele (@IanSteeleABC6) May 22, 2018
However, even with all the talent he possesses on the field, his best qualities may be his leadership and work ethic.
“And the best part that I like about him is his leadership and his vibe,” added Wynn who has been attached to the hip with Michel since high school. “For example, one day, a guy may not be feeling up to working. (Michel) comes in every day — I’ve never seen a day where he didn’t feel up to working. … You can easily catch his vibe, and he’ll get you right on point.”
In Maroney’s rookie year in 2006, he carried the ball 175 times for just under 800 yards. He too was coming to replace a departing running back in Corey Dillon. The Patriots play a different style of offense than in 2006, however, don’t be surprised to see Michel approach that number. If he has a fast start to his rookie year, expect him to far exceed those numbers.