NFL draft profile — No. 25: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Decisive, explosive runner has three-down value and lots of tread left on his tires

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Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.

25. Georgia RB Sony Michel
5-foot-11, 214 pounds

Key stats: Michel had 10 college games (out of 47) with 20 or more touches and he averaged 5.3 yards per carry in those contests.

The skinny: Born to Haitian immigrants, Michel didn’t start playing football until eighth grade but soon elevated himself to five-star recruit status and had most big programs in the country recruiting him. One of the best recruits in the state of Florida committed to the Bulldogs and saw immediate action, playing eight games (one start, in the Belk Bowl vs. Louisville). His role increased after Todd Gurley’s torn ACL, and Michel ran 64 times for 410 yards and five TDs and caught seven passes for 106 yards and a TD as a true freshman.

As a sophomore, Michel was named UGA’s offensive MVP in 2015 — stepping up when Nick Chubb injured his knee — in rushing for 1,161 yards and eight scores and catching 27 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to his junior season, Michel suffered a fractured left forearm courtesy of an ATV accident over the Fourth of July weekend. He missed the opener against UNC and was worked back into the rotation slowly while he healed, but Michel ran for 840 yards and four TDs and caught 22 passes for 149 yards and one score. He also was named offensive MVP in the Liberty Bowl win over TCU.

Michel announced he would return for his senior season, and — despite starting only two games behind Chubb — he delivered a brilliant 14-game campaign for the BCS runners-up: 1,227 yards rushing (on just 156 carries, an average of 7.9 yards per carry) and 16 rushing TDs. Michel also was named Rose Bowl MVP in a four-TD performance in which he gained 222 yards from scrimmage on a mere 15 touches.

Was invited but did not participate in the Senior Bowl. Michel attended the NFL scouting combine and opted not to perform either the broad or vertical jumps or run the 60-yard shuttle or 3-cone drill.

Upside: Decisive, physical and explosive runner. Has burst that appears to surprise some defenders. Seldom messes around — makes a cut and goes. Plants feet and redirects smartly. Doesn’t try to make fancy cutbacks and isn’t caught with his pants down being cute as a runner. Always seems to be falling forward. Carries his weight exceptionally well. Showed some nice upper-body strength with 22 bench-press reps.

Lot of tread left on his tires for a four-year college runner — never had more than 250 touches in a season and only averaged 164.5 touches per season. Wasn’t ground to dust in Georgia’s run game; the bulk of the dirty work went to Nick Chubb. Few teams have had as much RB talent over the past four years as the Bulldogs (including Todd Gurley, Chubb, Keith Marshall and D’Andre Swift), so Michel’s lack of opportunities is not concerning. Outstanding three-down value. Showed improved skill as a receiver and is one of the best pass-protecting backs in college football.

Consistently productive on a per-snap basis throughout his career vs. SEC defenses. Played through pain with knee injury in two FBS playoff games and delivered in a big way — 11-181-3 rushing (including walk-off score in overtime), 4-41-1 receiving vs. Oklahoma and 14-98-0 vs. Alabama, one of the best run defenses in the country. He’ll go down in school lore for his performance vs. OU, but this run against Alabama might have been his most impressive individual effort in either playoff game. Watch as he sniffs out the traffic jam up front, decisively changes course, makes a man miss and then tightropes the sideline for a breathtaking and game-changing run:

Praised for excellent character and work ethic. Named captain as junior and senior. Highly respected by UGA coaches and teammates. Played 127 special-teams snaps in 14 games last season — does whatever is asked of him.

Downside: Worrisome fumble rate — one every 54.6 touches, which is one of the worst among the draftable RB prospects this year. Affected by injury each of his four seasons — battled ankle and knee injuries last season, was slowed by broken arm in 2016 offseason and dealt with hand (2015) and shoulder (2014) injuries. Used to being in a rotation and might never be a true feature back without a strong running mate.

Not a make-you-miss runner like some other backs in this class. Doesn’t have great cutback ability (tends to gear down just a bit) or truly “wow” moves in the open space. Michel attempted to do more of this last season — perhaps with NFL scouts in the back of his mind — and it produced some good results, but not always. Watch here against Notre Dame in a “Wildcat” formation where he has a nice running lane and still gains positive yards but likely missed an opportunity to make more by trying to cut outside instead of running more downhill:

Ran through some big holes behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. Still developing as a receiver. Big chunks of his production came in pistol and shotgun formations. Pure speed is good but not rare — 40-yard dash and 10- and 20-yard splits were average to slightly above average for the position. No truly elite physical traits. Limited return experience (only four kick returns early in his college career).

Best-suited destination: There shouldn’t be an NFL offense in which Michel can’t fit. He was effective power and zone running in college, has clear three-down value and would be the perfect complement to a bigger back who can bear some of the heavy lifting. We typically list teams for whom prospects best fit, but in this case we’d suggest that he’s perfect for a team that doesn’t already have a volume back who is a big factor in the passing game as well.

Quotable: “[Michel] meant more to Georgia than yards. A lot of heart and soul. A lot of fire.”  — Georgia head coach Kirby Smart

Player comp: Alvin Kamara

Expected draft range: Late first- or early second-round pick

Greg Gabriel scouting report (subscribers only)

Previous profiles

50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman
49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
37. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard
36. Stanford S Justin Reid
35. Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby
34. SMU WR Courtland Sutton
33. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki
32. Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
31. Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
30. Texas A and M WR Christian Kirk
29. Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
28. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
27. Michigan DT Maurice Hurst
26. Texas OT Connor Williams