The New England Patriots traded former first-round pick Sony Michel. The move shows the team is confident with its running back depth.
The New England Patriots traded running back Sony Michel to the Rams on Wednesday. For Michel, he gets a new start with a new team in need of running back depth. In return, the Patriots get two conditional late-round conditional draft picks that could potentially turn into a compensatory 4th round pick. The Patriots get a solid return for a player that seemed destined to be playing somewhere else after the upcoming season.
By trading Michel, the Patriots dealt from a position of strength. During preseason games, the Patriots looked to be six players deep at running back. Damien Harris has been the unquestioned starter who has received the first carries in practices and in games. Despite Michel looking good in preseason games, Harris didn’t have to worry about him overtaking him.
The Michel trade does open the door for two other young Patriots running backs. By trading Michel, the team gave a silent vote of confidence to J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson. Taylor in particular has to be relived by the news because the trade may have guaranteed his roster spot.
The Patriots have substantial and intriguing depth at running back even with Sony Michel gone.
Both Stevenson and Taylor have had very good moments during the first two preseason games. With Harris’s injury history and Michel now gone, the team should be thinking about keeping both in case they need either during the season.
Although Brandon Bolden will also be available for running back depth, his best role is mainly as a special teams player. He can fill in during a game if the team only had two to three other backs healthy, but the Patriots would not want to have Bolden serve as an injury fill-in starter for multiple games.
Stevenson may take some of the early-down and short-yardage carries that Michel was poised to help give Harris rest during games. He has shown the ability to gain positive yardage no matter how a play turns out. This is a characteristic the Patriots love. He has also shown more speed and agility than you would expect from a back his size. It is possible that he could be used to take on worn-down defenses late in games.
Taylor could be used as a nice change of pace back. He has been compared to Dion Lewis because of his size and agility. Although he isn’t quite the receiver that Lewis was, the Patriots have always been able to make good use of smaller running backs that can both catch the ball and run between the tackles. He probably won’t supplant James White for the pure passing game back role this season, but his all-around versatility could help him fill the Rex Burkhead all-around role.
Either way, the Patriots received guaranteed compensation for a player that might not have netted a compensatory draft pick after this season. With Michel gone, the Patriots can now look to the future at the running back position with players who look ready and willing to go. The trade does not change the outlook of the running game or the team’s offensive strategy.