What the Sony Michel trade means for Patriots running backs in fantasy football

Here's what experts say about New England's updated depth chart.

James White
James White during the Patriots' preseason opener against Washington. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

The Patriots’ decision to trade former first-round pick Sony Michel to the Rams on Wednesday added at least one measure of clarity to the team’s crowded backfield.

The 26-year-old Michel, who as a rookie scored the only touchdown in New England’s Super Bowl LIII victory, now lands in what could be a more favorable position with Los Angeles.

Aside from the on-the-field impact, the trade also has implications for fantasy football. This is especially important with drafts approaching for many fantasy players.

Here’s what fantasy experts had to say following the deal:

What it means for the Patriots

The post-Michel Patriots running back depth chart actually looks fairly similar at the top. Damien Harris remains the expected starter, with James White offering his customary versatility on passing downs.


“His exit doesn’t alter the Patriots running backs’ outlook too much,” wrote Tim Daniels of Bleacher Report. “Harris remains a No. 2 fantasy back, while White’s value is tied closely to PPR leagues.”

Mike Tagliere of Fantasy Pros had a harsher take on Harris, citing 2020 as an example.

“What’s the best-case scenario for Harris?” asked Tagliere. “Didn’t we see it last year when Sony Michel went down with an injury? The Patriots may have traded Michel, but they drafted Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round of this year’s draft. I like Harris as a player, but as someone who topped 16 touches just twice last year with little competition and no role in the passing game, you should aim higher for your RB2/3 option.”

Still, as DraftKings’ Jovan C. Alford noted, the trade of Michel to the Rams “cements” Harris as the Patriots’ top back (at least to start the season).

CBS Sports senior fantasy writer Dave Richard — noting that Cam Newton may also steal goal-line carries from whoever is the team’s running back — also had some recommendations on where to draft Patriots running backs.

According to Richard, Harris is a top-60 fantasy pick in non-PPR (points per reception) leagues.


“Half and full-PPR are different stories,” added Richard. “I’d wait until closer to 70th overall to nab Harris since his reception potential is minimal.”

“The remaining Patriots backs are worth late-round glances for bench dances,” Harris concluded. “White in Round 12 in PPR, 13-plus in non- and half-PPR; Stevenson in Round 13 in all formats; Taylor as a late pick in the deepest of PPR leagues.”

What it means for Sony Michel

With expected Rams starting running back Cam Akers out for the season with a torn Achilles, Los Angeles could look to Darrell Henderson as the potential starter.

The 24-year-old Henderson, a 2019 third-round pick, produced similar statistics to Akers in 2020 (finishing with 624 yards rushing compared with Akers’s 625, and averaging 4.5 yards per carry against 4.3 for Akers).

Even with Michel now on the roster, the expectations remain that Henderson will start. Michel’s fantasy value could be tied to Henderson’s durability.

“He’ll almost certainly be just a veteran depth piece for Darrell Henderson, but he could make an impact if Henderson needs to miss time (and he is currently battling a thumb injury),” noted Tagliere.

“Michel may have only had 79 carries last year, but he did average a massive 5.7 yards per carry on them,” Tagliere added. “Michel remains only an insurance policy back for now, unless we find out that Henderson needs to miss significant time.”


That said, Michel could be in line for more carries with the Rams, who have shown a propensity in years past for sharing the carries with multiple running backs.

“Last season, we saw the Rams do a lot of damage with the three-headed monster of Akers, Henderson, and Malcolm Brown,” wrote Alford.

“The Rams do not have Akers or Brown anymore,” Alford added, “but Michel should be able to slot in nicely with Henderson.”

Even before the trade, Michel — who has played well in the preseason — was seeing a rise in his ADP (average draft position). That trend looks set to continue now that he has a chance at an increased number of snaps.


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