The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Georgia running back Sony Michel.
For more on all the other backs in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft running back rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 3.
Senior | 5’11″ and 214 Pounds | Born February 17, 1995 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 2-3
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.54 sec | bench reps: 22 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: 4.21 sec | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
As good as Georgia running back Nick Chubb was in college, Michel might be just as good as a pro. Recruited the same year as Chubb, Michel was actually the higher-rated player entering college, arriving at Georgia as the nation’s No. 2 high school back. Behind Todd Gurley and Chubb as a freshman, Michel managed just 516 yards and six touchdowns — most of which came in mop-up duty — but as a sophomore he played as the starter after Chubb’s season-ending knee injury, averaging 122.8 yards and 0.5 touchdowns from scrimmage in eight games as the lead back. For the season, he had 1,406 yards and 11 touchdowns. After that, Michel played as the change-of-pace and receiving back in a committee with Chubb, averaging 1,156 yards and 11 touchdowns per year over his two final seasons. In 2017 he had 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns, and for his career he had 90.1 yards and 0.83 touchdowns per game: That’s pretty good for a guy who was only a committee back and injury fill-in.
Although Chubb was the preferred runner at Georgia, Michel could be the superior NFL player. Michel has good size, more receiving production (64 receptions vs. 31 for Chubb), less collegiate wear and tear (590 carries vs. 758), more explosiveness (7.2 highlight yards per opportunity vs. 5.7), and a cleaner medical history. With Kenyan Drake we’ve recently seen an SEC change-of-pace back selected with a top-100 pick have NFL success as a starter. With his strong combine, Chubb could be selected earlier than his running mate, but Michel also looks like at worst a Day 2 pick. It helps a lot that he’s a strong pass protector. Throughout his career, he allowed just one sack on 150 total pass-blocking snaps (Pro Football Focus). With his skill set, Michel could be a three-down NFL back.
As good as Chubb was in the College Football Playoff, Michel was better. With 25 carries and four receptions, he totaled 320 yards and four touchdowns, one of which was an electric 75-yard scamper and the last of which was a 27-yard game-winner. With his virtuosic performance he combined with Chubb to break the all-time teammate rushing record held by the Pony Express since 1982. Eric Dickerson and Craig James combined for 8,192 career rushing yards on 1,565 carries across their four years together at Southern Methodist. Chubb and Michel had 8,382 with 217 fewer carries. In a program that has seen great performance across the decades from Gurley, Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst, Knowshon Moreno, and a whole bunch of guys from the ’40s and ’50s, neither Chubb nor Michel can reasonably be said to be the best back in school history — but together they might be the greatest running duo in the annals of college football.
Throughout the draft process, Michel will likely be compared incessantly to Chubb, just as Auburn teammates Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams were in 2005 and Arkansas teammates Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were in 2008. Chubb might end up as the better back, but Michel will likely hold his own as a pro.