Round 2: Georgia RB Sony Michel
5-11, 215 – 4.53 – Senior
The Buccaneers won’t draft a defensive end in 2018 and expect that person to provide the primary boost the team needs in the pass-rushing department. Licht and Koetter will do something in free agency in the way of a proven veteran defensive lineman in March. The Bucs could take a gamble on Washington State pass rusher Hercules Mata’afa or Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong, Jr., but Tampa Bay also needs a feature back to replace Doug Martin, who has been awful over the last two years and should be released this offseason.
While this is a deep draft for running backs with players like USC’s Ronald Jones II, Notre Dame’s Josh Adams, Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson and Oregon’s Royce Freeman possibly being around when the Bucs pick in the third round, Tampa Bay waited too long to draft a runner last year and got burned by taking Jeremy McNichols, who was a bust, in the fifth round. The Bucs could have the luxury of selecting of selecting San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny or Michel in the second round, and either would be a great fit in Koetter’s offense.
Michel, whose draft stock has been on the rise during an impressive senior season, is the complete, modern day NFL running back, who is capable of playing first, second or third down due to his running, receiving and pass blocking ability. Michel has 64 career catches for 621 yards and nine touchdowns in his Bulldogs career and has some Alvin Kamara-like ability in being able to run the ball well and be a receiver out of the backfield.
Heading into the National Championship Game against Alabama, Michel has rushed for 1,129 yards and a career-high 16 touchdowns on 142 carries (8.0), while splitting time with Georgia’s starter Nick Chubb. Although he has had to play second fiddle to Chubb throughout his four years with the Bulldogs – except for 2015 when Michel led the Bulldogs with 1,136 yards and eight touchdowns after Chubb tore his ACL early in the season – many NFL scouts believe that Michel will be the better pro prospect.
“That guy’s got juice now,” former Florida coach Jim McElwain said about Michel.
Michel’s Georgia Career Rushing Stats
2017: 142 carries for 1,129 yards (8.0 avg.) with 16 TDs and a long of 75 yards
2016: 152 carries for 840 yards (5.5 avg.) with 4 TDs and a long of 42 yards
2015: 218 carries for 1,136 yards (5.2 avg.) with 8 TDs and a long of 66 yards
2014: 64 carries for 410 yards (6.4 avg.) with 5 TDs and a long of 75 yards
Michel’s Georgia Career Receiving Stats
2017: 9 catches for 96 yards (10.7 avg.) with 1 TD and a long of 32 yards
2016: 22 catches for 149 yards (6.8 avg.) with 1 TD and a long of 33 yards
2015: 26 catches for 270 yards (10.4 avg.) with 3 TDs and a long of 48 yards
2014: 7 catches for 106 yards (15.1 avg.) with 1 TD and a long of 33 yards
With 4,744 rushing yards, Chubb is Georgia’s second all-time leading rusher behind the legendary Herschel Walker. Yet Michel’s 3,515 yards rank him third all-time, ahead of the likes of Todd Gurley, Garrison Hearst, Lars Tate, Knowshon Moreno and Rodney Harrison. He’s more than capable of being a feature back in Tampa Bay. Michel, who has 11 100-yard games in his career, has showed his explosiveness and tackle-breaking ability on nine runs of 40 yards or more during his Bulldogs career, including three runs of 70 yards or more.
One of those long runs came in Georgia’s double-overtime Rose Bowl win against Oklahoma. Michel had a career-high 181 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 11 carries (16.5 avg.). Those rushing touchdowns covered 75 and 38 yards, and a 27-yarder in double overtime that was the game-winner. Michel also had four catches for 41 yards and a receiving touchdown against the Sooners.
Michel fumbled for the first time this season in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl, and had to watch Oklahoma safety Steven Parker return it 46 yards for a seven-point lead. Yet his 27-yard touchdown run out of the “Wild Dawg” formation in double overtime was the perfect atonement for Michel.
“I told Sony, ‘Look, we got you. We’re together,’” said Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. “You never walk away from a guy like that. He’s always one play away from a huge play.”
Because he has a skill set that mirrors New Orleans’ Pro Bowl rookie running back Alvin Kamara, Michel could creep up into the first round with a good showing at the Senior Bowl and a fast 40-yard dash time if he cracks 4.5.
“The senior RB has been outstanding this season, showing off decisiveness, physicality and an explosive burst,” according to NFL.com draft expert Lance Zierlein. “Michel is also willing and ready to mix it up in pass protection. His physical play demeanor as an interior runner is exactly what NFL teams want. Before the season, I had a fourth-to-fifth-round grade on Michel, but his 2017 tape, leadership and consistency have won me over and I’m expecting him do be a Day 2 pick (Rounds 2-3) in 2018.”