Patriots fantasy focus: Sony Michel’s role after Jeremy Hill’s injury

When the rookie running back makes his debut, it will likely be in a bigger role.

Tom Brady hands off to Sony Michel at Patriots minicamp.
Tom Brady hands off to Sony Michel at Patriots minicamp in June, 2018. –AP Photo/Steven Senne

Update: After the Patriots signed running back Kenjon Barner on Tuesday, Sony Michel told the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride on Wednesday that he’s “feeling pretty good” and that his “mind-set is to prepare as if I’m playing.” Michel remained “limited” in Patriots practice. Rex Burkhead, who suffered a concussion in Week 1, did not participate.

In his Patriots debut, running back Jeremy Hill performed well in limited opportunities. Unfortunately for Hill, his opening game – and season – were cut short when he suffered a torn ACL.

With the powerful veteran runner out for the rest of the 2018 season, it means the Patriots will likely add another running back to the active roster for Week 2 against the Jaguars. New England currently has only two running backs healthy from the Week 1 roster (James White and Rex Burkhead).

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The door is open for rookie first round pick Sony Michel to (eventually) see an increased workload. The only question is when Michel will be deemed healthy (and prepared) to make his own Patriots debut. Having suffered a knee injury during training camp, Michel has been back practicing for a few weeks.

Still – despite an uptick in his practice workload – he was “limited” last week, according to the team’s injury report ahead of the season opener. In the short term, Michel’s unknown injury status could mean another running back gets a chance.

The Patriots worked out a trio of free agent running backs last week, including Kenjon Barner:

The other non-Michel scenario would be activating practice squad member Ralph Webb, who had a strong preseason debut.

When Michel is healthy enough to make the active roster, it’s likely he will get opportunities in the Patriots’ offense. Running backs coach Ivan Fears explained his thoughts on Michel in a late August interview.

“He was progressing well,” Fears told NESN’s Zack Cox. “I was really happy when we got the pads on and I got to see him run a little bit. It looks like he’s going to be what we expected him to be. Unfortunately, we didn’t get too long into it before he got hurt, but I expect him to come back ready to go.”

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“Let’s put it this way: I liked what he was doing,” Fears continued. “Before he got hurt, I liked what he was doing. I really did. He was doing the right things.”

Predicting the Patriots’ backfield for fantasy purposes can be difficult, but – based on his talent, draft status, and the encouraging things Patriots coaches have said – patience seems like the best approach for those who have Michel on their team.

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