2018 Draft Expert Opinion: Sony Michel

The 2018 Browns backfield may have a major void if they decide to move on from Isaiah Crowell. Even if they did re-sign Crowell, this is undoubtedly one of the deepest RB draft classes in recent memory. My favorite of the group is Georgia senior RB, Sony Michel.

Outside of SEC country, Sony Michel wasn’t a household name until Georgia’s magnificent 2017 season and run in the College Football Playoffs. He was spectacular in the semifinal versus Oklahoma and was equally impressive against Alabama – perennially a top-10 defense loaded with NFL talent. However, over his four years at Georgia, he was outside the national limelight as he shared the backfield with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb.

His championship game performance highlighted his impressive traits showing up on several runs against Alabama, especially in the first half. I was intrigued to dig deeper and I included some of my favorite game clips that breakdown Michel’s running style and strengths.

Not the flashiest run of his career, this is my favorite because of the degree of athletic difficulty and whom it came against. A 3rd and 20 to-go situation, Michel showcases his vision and speed to get to the edge to win angle on pursuing defenders. The balance to straddle the sideline without losing stride while having to change direction, well, is all-world. This run is amazing from a pure athletic ability standpoint, add the fact he’s doing it against Alabama’s NFL talent confirms his abilities are transferable to the next level. Matt Waldman’s provides a breakdown of the run below.

Michel’s biggest strength is arguably his violent burst in and out of cuts to elude defenders. On this play against Auburn, the MLB shoots the A gap and has Michel dead to rights. Michel makes the LB whiff with the first juke towards outside shoulder of RT. Immediately thereafter, cuts again to re-position his running lane north to avoid RCB coming down while feeling a block from his WR on opposing LB on over-pursuit. He exhibits smart decision making to read field/blocks while optimizing yardage in and out of cuts.

Here is another impressive run that showcases Michel’s vision, elusiveness and awareness/feel for first down marker. What I like about this run is he recognizes after eluding two defenders to lower pad level and churn legs to fall forward and pick up first down.

He doesn’t shy away from contact either. Lowers the boom to on-coming safety.

He’s solid in pass protection and legitimate threat out of the backfield as a receiver too. His field awareness and anticipation continue to impress me. He anticipates running lanes that open up as the play develops.

Although burst and acceleration is Michel’s calling card, his top-end speed sustainability concerns me. This run, albeit a TD, shows Michel basically going untouched into the secondary; however, the trailing defenders catch up to him as he seems to fade at end of this run. This could be considered nit-picky but I noticed this issue more than once.

Other concerns stem from his fumbling issues or if he possesses the stamina to be the feature, 3-down back. There isn’t substantial evidence, but he did take over primary duties when Chubb went down with a season-ending knee injury in ’15.

Concerns aside, Michel is my favorite running back in this class. A violent runner who possesses a profound awareness of his surroundings. The elite burst, elusiveness, and multi-purpose threat as a pass-catcher he showcased in college should transfer over to the NFL.

My favorite comp for Michel is former Miami Hurricane RB, Willis McGahee. Who had a respectable NFL career and ran with the same violence in and out of cuts that Michel does.

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