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2018 NFL Draft profile: Sony Michel brings speed, quickness and versatility to the Lions

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Would Sony be a good fit for Detroit?

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

No player in the country had a better finish to their season (unless you’re Tua Tagovailoa) than Sony Michel, who totaled 279 yards on 25 carries (11.2 yards per carry) and four total touchdowns in his final two games as a Georgia Bulldog.

Depending on who you ask, Sony Michel may be an even better NFL prospect than his counterpart, Nick Chubb. He’s been labeled as the “lightning” to Chubb’s “thunder,” but as you’ll see later on, he’s got some of his own thunder to dish out.

Production

(Via Sports-Reference CFB)

Source: sports-reference

Michel finished his career with 3,613 rushing yards (16th all-time in the SEC), which is pretty damn good considering he had never once entered a season as the feature back for Georgia’s offense. His 7.9 yards per carry led the SEC conference in 2017. Although Sony was the understudy throughout his college career, I think he has what it takes to take on a leading role for an NFL team.

Film

Positives

Sony Michel is an absolute terror once he’s hit full speed. He can either run you over and take your lunch money or shake you out of your boots with his elite quickness.

Take this play, for example, during a game where Michel and Chubb ran for a combined 288 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.

Lightning and Thunder

Sony Michel and the rest of the Georgia offense had zero respect for Vanderbilt’s defense. On this second down play, the strong safety quickly sniffs out the run and creeps up in the box while Michel, after hitting his top gear, treats him as if he’s simply running through pads in practice. Once Michel spots the deep safety closing the gap, he quickly anchors his left foot into the ground and cuts to the sideline, exhibiting his remarkable ability to quickly change directions without losing any speed and forces the missed tackle in the open field.

Just when I was losing most of my patience with Michel as a prospect, I happened to stumble upon this play (above), a play I must have repeated 20 times over to completely appreciate what may be my favorite play that I witnessed from Sony.

It might not look that significant on the surface and if he had better field vision here he probably could have maximized his yards by using his straight-line speed to angle his way to the left sideline and possibly outrun the safety. However, give me any running back at Sony’s size and stature that is so eager and willing to dish out punishment rather than continuously avoiding defenders and sometimes losing yards in the process.

Balance

I’m still working on proving this, but I’m pretty sure Sony Michel defies all physics. This is downright filthy and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how he was able to keep this play alive for as long as he did.

Sony Michel’s balance is elite.

Negatives

As I briefly mentioned earlier, watching tape on Michel can sometimes be infuriating. On one hand, you’ll see the Georgia O-line generate 5 yards of push beyond the line of scrimmage and somehow Michel only gains 5 yards on the play. Yet, in a totally different scenario, you watch as he drags multiple Vanderbilt defenders for nearly 10 yards after contact.

Get by with a little help from my friends

What is noticeable on most of Michel’s powerful runs, is how he almost always needs to hit full speed before he touches a defender to create yards after contact. He just doesn’t appear to have the same type of leg drive that his compadre Nick Chubb does, and I would have liked to have seen him create more for himself, rather than just taking what’s given to him.

Many were upset with Georgia’s decision-making in the National Championship game against Alabama. Despite being noticeably the best running back on the field, Georgia barely put the ball in Sony’s hands in the second half. But if you look back to Sony’s last carry of the game, it was a drive killer for the Bulldogs.

Vision

*credit to Pro Football Focus’ Brett Whitefield for always letting me pick his brain when I need a second pair of eyes.

Georgia runs an inside zone concept on third-and-2. Michel runs to his aiming point, presses the line of scrimmage and has a clear lane with the left-side a-gap completely open for him, but decides to cut back between the center and right guard and gets met by the defensive tackle who stuffs him for just a 1-yard gain. You could argue that the right guard needs to do a better job of helping the center and chipping the defensive tackle there and that it’s simply an outstanding play made by the DT, but I’m sure that’s a play where Sony wishes he had back.

Sony’s vision between the tackles is an area that he can definitely improve.

Pass protection

Michel isn’t terrible as a pass protector, in fact, I wouldn’t label it as a negative or a positive, but I had to put this somewhere just to talk about it. What I do like is that Michel is very willing as a pass blocker. You don’t see him get cold feet and avoid contact and sometimes he holds up well at the point of attack and doesn’t give up a whole lot of ground. Obviously, this sample play does not do him any favors and his technique and positioning could use plenty of work, but the same could be said about a high percentage of backs that come out of college.

Injury history

There are some conflicting reports on Michel’s shoulder injury in 2014. Initial reports in 2014 claim it was a left shoulder contusion, later to be called a broken collarbone (re-injured in 2015) in a separate article and also a right shoulder blade fracture. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Player comparison: A poor man’s Alvin Kamara (I know, I’m taking the lazy route on this one)

Final thoughts

Overall, Sony Michel is one of my favorite skill players in this draft. His blend of quickness, balance, power and versatility as a runner and pass catcher gives him a skillset that many teams are currently lacking at the professional level. While I do believe that he would be an immediate upgrade over what the Detroit Lions currently have, I do not love his fit here and would prefer someone who is a better pure runner between the tackles. The Lions have plenty of guys who can catch the ball in the backfield and make you miss in space.

With all of that being said, I would not be disappointed in the slightest if Bob Quinn were to draft him on Day 2. He is a special talent no matter how you look at it.

Previous reports: RB Nick Chubb (Georgia)