Patriots’ 2018 first-round pick running back Sony Michel was traded to the Los Angeles Rams early Wednesday morning for two conditional picks. If the Rams are awarded a fourth-round compensatory selection, the Patriots will get that instead of the two picks (a fifth and a sixth) in 2022. Patriots fans may be reactionary about this deal. The response is already not that great. Though, I feel that Patriots fans may be overvaluing the fourth year running back from Georgia.
Let’s start this off by looking at the rest of the Patriots’ running back room. He was clearly going to be the odd man out. With how well third-round selection Rhamondre Stevenson has played, it was only a matter of time. Damien Harris and James White are basically locked for the 53-man roster. Meanwhile, even second-year undrafted free agent J.J. Taylor has been killing it in camp. Sony Michel, on the last year of his rookie deal, had to be traded. A fourth-round pick at best sounds like a solid deal for the Patriots, who didn’t really need him.
Let’s face it, Sony Michel was never going to garner a first-round selection in return. Michel hasn’t done anything to demand that type of value. Last season he only rushed 79 times for 449 yards and 1 touchdown. Not adding much in the receiving department with 17 catches for 114 yards and a score. He wasn’t all that available in 2020, and it’s a common truth that in the Patriots locker room, the best ability is availability. He hasn’t had that since his breakout rookie campaign. Sure, he had a terrific 2018 post-season, and even a solid sophomore output, but he got outplayed and replaced by Damien Harris. As well as not doing enough to separate himself from Taylor and Stevenson.
Patriots’ Running Back Room From Here
Simply put, the Patriots do not get any worse from this Sony Michel trade. Sure, the return isn’t the best of value, but that’s not why it was made. Trading Michel simply makes the team that much more flexible at the running back position. Michel is no longer demanding carries. Come week one, Rhamondre Stevenson could be seeing some real playing time. Meanwhile, Taylor can take over that Rex Burkhead role that we missed a good chunk of last season when he tore his ACL. James White and Damien Harris can continue their usual duties, and maybe Brandon Bolden sticks around on this roster for his value on special teams.
I’m very excited to see what the Patriots have to offer in the run game. They have quite the diversity in their backfield. Plus with Cam Newton adding his rushing threat at quarterback? This team is poised to be a top-five rushing attack again in 2021.
Saying Goodbye to Sony Michel
I have never been Sony Michel’s biggest advocate. I’ve always felt like the Patriots took the wrong Georgia running back in the 2018 NFL Draft, and should have gotten Nick Chubb if running back was the route to go in. Though, I would be foolish to not acknowledge the good he did in his time as a Patriot. His 2018 playoff performance is second to none. Shattering a ton of rookie postseason records, and even scoring the lone touchdown in Super Bowl LIII to give the Patriots a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Their sixth Super Bowl title in 17 years.
Unfortunately, the time has just come. He didn’t separate himself enough from the competition to justify taking away snaps from younger players. This is Damien Harris’s backfield now. With James White as the premier pass catcher, and Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor carving out roles for themselves.
Nevertheless, Sony Michel should be celebrated for his contributions as a Patriot. In spite of injuries and growing pains, he was a serviceable player for New England. Even if a trade had to be done, it’s hard not to have a good feeling thinking about his rookie campaign.