New England Patriots: Why Sony Michel could be franchise’s best RB

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 26: running back Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the Southern University Jaguars on September 26, 2015 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. The Georgia Bulldogs won 48-6. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 26: running back Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the Southern University Jaguars on September 26, 2015 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. The Georgia Bulldogs won 48-6. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Sony Michel is going to be a star for the New England Patriots.

On New Year’s Day this year, the World got a glance at how much star potential New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel truly has.

The backup running back to Nick Chubb at the University of Georgia torched the Oklahoma defense for 181 rushing yards on 11 carries and scoring four total touchdowns, three on the ground and one receiving.

He outshined the Sooners Heisman Trophy award-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield and it was right then and there that everybody saw just how great Michel could be, if they hadn’t already in the 45 games played at Georgia prior to it.

Stellar collegiate career for Michel:

The NFL is a completely different game from college obviously but playing in the Southeastern Conference gave Michel a great test against some strong run defenses.

Alabama, LSU and Florida all graded out to have top 30 run defenses averaged out over the four years Michel was at Georgia. Alabama was the second best run defense on average, LSU was 20.75 and Florida was 26th over the four seasons.

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In Michel’s games against these defenses his numbers were strong.

He had 45 carries for 335 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and scored a pair of touchdowns against the 8th ranked run defense Florida this past season.

That game may have been his most impressive in college rushing for 137 yards on just six carries to go with the two touchdowns.

His other top performances at the college level were:

Freshman Year:

  • 10 carries, 155 yards and three touchdowns against Troy (121st run defense)

Sophomore Year:

  • 22 carries, 145 yards against Tennessee
  • 24 carries, 165 yards, one touchdown against Kentucky (108th run defense)
  • 22 carries, 107 yards, one touchdown against Georgia Southern (25th run defense)
  • 24 carries, 149 yards, one touchdown against Georgia Tech (59th run defense)

Junior Year:

  • 21 carries, 133 yards against South Carolina (88th run defense)
  • 19 carries, 127 yards, one touchdown against Kentucky (108th run defense)
  • 19 carries, 170 yards, one touchdown against Georgia Tech (64th run defense)

Senior Year:

  • 12 carries, 150 yards and one touchdown against Vanderbilt (102nd run defense)
  • 11 carries, 181 yards, four touchdowns (one receiving) against Oklahoma (53rd run defense)

In 590 career attempts at the University of Georgia, Michel ran for 3,613 yards and scored 33 touchdowns.

More impressively, he did so while averaging 6.1 yards per carry and in the shadow of a couple other premier collegiate running backs in Todd Gurley during his freshman year and Nick Chubb all four years.

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After Chubb went down with a season-ending knee injury in Michel’s sophomore year, he took over as the primary back and had his single season high of 219 carries. Michel responded with 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns on 5.3 yards per carry.

While the rushing totals are strong, Michel also flashing his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with 64 career catches and six touchdowns on 621 yards receiving in his career.

Not much to live up to with prior first round running back picks:

The New England Patriots haven’t had much success when selecting a running back in the first round dating back to the 1966 NFL Draft.

Sony Michel is the next in line as the first running back selected in over 10 years, the last being Laurence Maroney back in 2006.

Maroney was the only first round pick spent on a running back by current New England head coach Bill Belichick.

In the 1973 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Sam Cunningham with the 11th overall pick.

And dating back to 1966, Cunningham has been the best first round pick the Patriots have spent on a running back. Cunningham is the all-time leading rusher for the Patriots with 5,453 rushing yards.

Laurence Maroney would rank behind Cunningham.

Below are the career statistics of the first round running backs New England has selected.

Laurence Maroney (2006, 21st overall):

Career: 618 attempts, 2,504 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, 21 touchdowns.

Robert Edwards (1998, 18th overall):

Career: 311 attempts, 1,222 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns. Blew out his knee in an NFL rookie flag football game in Hawaii during Pro Bowl week after a stellar rookie campaign with 1,115 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He added 35 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns. If Edwards stayed healthy, he had the potential to top the list of best running backs. He was told he may never walk again by doctors and just escaped needing his leg amputated.

Leonard Russell (1991, 14th overall):

Career: 1,164 attempts, 3,973 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, 29 touchdowns

John Stephens (1988, 17th overall):

Career: 945 attempts, 3,440 yards, 3.6 yards per carry, 18 touchdowns

Reggie Dupard (1986, 26th overall):

Career: 217 attempts, 704 yards, 3.2 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns

Vagas Ferguson (1980, 25th overall):

Career: 290 attempts, 1,163 yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns

Sam Cunningham (1973, 11th overall):

Career: 1,385 attempts, 5,453 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, 43 touchdowns

Why Michel has the chance to be the best running back in Patriots history ever?

It’s not just the first round picks that haven’t done well. Michel has the ability to be better than any running back the Patriots have ever had on the 53-man roster.

If his college numbers were put up against the all-time list in New England Patriots rushing history, Michel would rank fifth in rushing yards right ahead of Kevin Faulk and sixth in touchdowns behind LeGarrette Blount.

That’s in just four years at Georgia.

His elusiveness in the open field, ability to catch the football and big game ability are going to be something New England fans haven’t seen in years if ever.

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The kid is going to be special and getting him with the 31st overall pick because he fell due to a knee injury could be one of the biggest draft steals in years in he holds up.