Sony Michel has played in 22 NFL games, including the playoffs.
And the results have been decent — 931 yards in 13 regular-season games as a rookie, and then 348 yards in six games this year — but something appears to be a bit off.
Michel does not possess a single trait of a first-round running back. What does he do so well that it’s clear he’s a first-round pick?
There isn’t anything.
Michel is a solid NFL back. The Georgia product finds the holes when they are there and can deliver 5-8 yard runs when they are presented to him. With that being said, he’s lacked the ability to break a long run and get through the second level of the defense. His longest run of his career is 34 yards and he only has two runs of 20 or more yards this year.
Many will point to his postseason performance last year when he totaled 336 yards and six touchdowns in three games, but it could be argued most running backs would have been able to post similar numbers with how dominant the blocking was.
In watching Michel's 22 games, the second-year back doesn’t have the same burst and shiftiness as some of the other top running backs in the NFL.
While he caught 64 passes in his four seasons at Georgia, he has just 12 in his first year-and-a-half in the NFL. Michel simply isn’t much of a threat in the passing game, which makes him a decent, but not outstanding NFL running back.
“I think he's had opportunities and he's done pretty well with those,” Bill Belichick said earlier this year. “There's been times where he hasn't been able to get started and that's always a problem with the running game. If you can't get them through the line of scrimmage, you can gain some yards, but it's hard. There are things he can do better.”
Across the league, running backs are typically as good as their offensive lines, but the great ones can turn nothing into positive gains. Within that quote, Belichick seemed to note that hasn’t been the case with Michel.
If Michel was not selected in the first-round, he would be viewed a lot differently. By being drafted in the first round, expectations were and still are higher than what they should be. Only three 100-yard rushing yard games to his name in the regular season, as well as currently being 18th in the league in yards per game will hammer that home.
Here are some of the running backs recently selected in the first round: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon.
Michel just isn’t in the same category as any of these players.
In addition, look at some of the players selected behind him in last year’s draft: Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson and Phillip Lindsay.
Chubb has just under double the number of rushing yards as Michel does this season, and has a 92-yard run and a 88-yard run to his name in his year-and-a-half. Not to mention, he’s caught 40 passes. While Johnson has less rushing yards than Michel overall, he’s caught 41 career passes. And lastly, Lindsay has 1,822 all-purpose yards to Michel’s 1,388.
Based on where he was selected — No. 31 overall — Michel is expected to be better than these three players and that simply has not happened. Whether fair to him or not, that is what has taken place and is one of the reasons why some have been down on him.
If Michel was selected in say the third round, he would be viewed a lot differently. Some questioned if he was worth the first-round pick at the time, and even more so now. Running backs selected in the first round are expected to have multiple, or at least one, spectacular trait and that just isn’t there with Michel.
Michel is a solid player to have on a roster who can have a positive impact on the team, but just don’t expect anything that resembles being selected in the first round.