Sony Michel was drafted in the first round by the Patriots in the 2018 NFL draft.
In 31 career games, he’s totaled just short of 1,900 yards and 14 touchdowns, while averaging four yards per carry. But, that’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry in his rookie season. In his last 18 games, he’s only averaging 3.66 yards per carry.
That isn’t good for any running back, let alone someone who was drafted in the first round.
While it’s not apples to apples, Nick Chubb, Michel’s teammate at Georgia, was selected four picks after him in the 2018 draft and in four fewer NFL games, has rushed for 2,674 yards and 18 touchdowns, while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
And while some running backs can also catch passes out of the backfield, that isn’t Michel. He has just 19 catches in his 31 games.
Having played in 31 NFL games, it’s become clear Michel wasn’t worthy of a first-round pick, and now it’s becoming clear he should take a back seat to some of the other Patriots running backs on the roster.
Against the Seahawks, Patriots running backs averaged 1.43 yards per carry, and Michel received the most work (seven carries for 19 yards).
That is not good enough to compete in the NFL.
“When they take that away, you have to find different ways to move the football,” Cam Newton said after Sunday’s loss. “They watched film and probably saw us last week have a lot of success in the run game and they had a plan. Make no mistake about it, the Seattle Seahawks are a great football team. We are a great football team as well. It was great for us to be able to see where we can kind of figure it out and we just fell short.”
While the Patriots rank 10th in rushing yards, Newton has 43 percent of them (122). The Patriots need more out of their backs and right now Michel is holding the group back.
Rex Burkhead and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor have shown more of an ability to make plays and deserve to get a chance. Dating back to last season, Michel has had 14 double-digit carry games, but does not have one game where he’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark.
Imagine what Burkhead, or even Taylor based on Week 1, would do with double-digit carries.
And then there’s Damien Harris, the Patriots’ third-round pick of a year ago, who is currently on injured reserve with a finger injury, but is eligible to return in Week 4. The Alabama product only played in two games last season, but was one of the best players on the entire team in training camp.
Once he’s ready to go, he deserves a chance to play. And that is where things could get uncomfortable with Michel.
Bill Belichick and Co. always preach doing what is best for the team, and what will be best for the team right now is taking away some of Michel’s carries and giving them to the other running backs on the roster. Based on what we’ve seen and know, these players give the running game a better chance to succeed.
While it’s hard to imagine Michel wouldn’t be made active for a game, his role needs to be diminished. Given he was drafted in the first round just three years ago, that may be hard to do, but it’s a results business and Michel is not getting them.
In 2019, Michel finished 40th out of 47 qualifying players in yards per carry and currently sits 43rd out of 53 this season.
That’s not going to cut it, especially when there are several capable backs behind him ready for their chance.
At the end of the day, Michel gets what is blocked for him. If the offensive line clears a big hole, he’ll take advantage of it and pick up six or seven yards. If the offensive line doesn’t clear a big hole, he hasn’t shown the ability to break a tackle and pick up a tough three or four yards.
The other four backs on the roster have at least shown something at one point or another when it comes to being able to make some plays on their own.
It’s past the point of giving Michel the benefit of being a first-round pick, the Patriots need to make a hard decision with Michel and lower him on the depth chart.
And with Harris potentially coming back in Week 4, that could be the perfect time to do it.