The Rams have added some depth to their running back room. On Wednesday morning, the team announced that it had acquired Sony Michel from the Patriots in exchange for draft-pick compensation.
As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport details, the Patriots will receive a 2022 fourth-round compensatory pick in exchange for Michel — if the Rams receive a compensatory selection, as expected. If not, then New England will receive fifth- and sixth-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Michel was a first-round pick of the Patriots in 2018 and has totaled 2,550 total yards and 15 touchdowns during his three-year career. He also ran for 94 yards on 18 carries and scored the lone TD in Super Bowl 53, which the Patriots won 13-3 over the Rams.
What does the Sony Michel trade mean for the Rams? And, perhaps more importantly, what does it mean for fantasy owners who are interested in Rams RBs Darrell Henderson and Xavier Jones as well as Patriots RBs Damien Harris, James White and Rhamondre Stevenson? Here’s a full breakdown.
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How Sony Michel trade impacts Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones
When the Rams lost Cam Akers to a torn Achilles before the preseason, many assumed that they would add another running back to their depth chart. They didn’t. Instead, they rolled with Darrell Henderson as their starter and Xavier Jones, Jake Funk, Raymond Calais and Otis Anderson as their backups.
However, more recent injuries in the RB room prompted another trade. Calais was waived with an injured designation after suffering a mid-foot fracture. And recently, Henderson suffered a thumb injury in practice.
While Henderson’s injury is not expected to be serious, the Rams still had only three healthy running backs on their roster. None of them have logged an NFL carry, and Funk twice tore his ACL while playing at Maryland. So, experience and depth became a need.
Michel will provide that. He has 561 total touches at the NFL level and has started 28 of the 38 NFL games he has played. He will be able to start if the Rams need him to, but he was comfortable in a backup role with the Patriots last year.
From a fantasy football perspective, Michel certainly has more value with the Rams than he did with the Patriots. He was fighting for the primary backup role in New England, but in Los Angeles, he should have a chance to earn some carries quickly. It may take him some time to adjust to the offense; he may even find himself behind Henderson and even Jones to begin his time there.
However, the Rams wouldn’t trade a conditional fourth-round pick for him if they didn’t have some sort of plan to get him touches. Michel is now a solid handcuff that can be selected late in fantasy drafts. Jones is still a decent sleeper pick as well, but his upside isn’t as high as it once was.
Meanwhile, Henderson’s value will largely remain unaffected. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll be the starter (though he will cede some snaps to either Jones or Michel on a weekly basis).
Projected Rams RB depth chart
Here’s what the Rams’ RB depth chart could look like after the Sony Michel trade.
Perhaps Jones will pull ahead of Michel, but in the long-term, the former Patriot has the edge in the backup battle.
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How Sony Michel trade impacts Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson
Speaking of the Patriots, this deal made a lot of sense for them. They have a lot of talent at the running back position, so they didn’t really need Michel.
Last season, Michel handled just 86 total touches for the Patriots. He has dealt with injuries in recent seasons, and availability and performance concerns eroded New England’s trust in him. The team didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and he was set to be a free agent after the season.
It seemed unlikely Michel would re-sign with the Patriots. He wasn’t even a lock to make the team this summer and was considered a potential roster cut. That changed, however, after Michel racked up 60 rushing yards on 13 carries during the preseason. That opened the door for him to make the final roster or become a trade chip.
It’s not a surprise that the latter option occurred. The Patriots have one of the NFL’s deepest running back rooms. Damien Harris, James White and Rhamondre Stevenson are all Patriots draft picks with Harris and Stevenson being recent ones. Meanwhile, JJ Taylor eventually earned a roster spot for the Patriots after going undrafted in 2020. The team also has special teams ace Brandon Bolden around, and he is expected to make the roster too.
As such, even if Michel returns to form, the Patriots won’t miss him too much.
Trading Michel also opens a path for Stevenson — who has looked great in the preseason, rushing for four TDs in two games — to be the primary backup to Harris. Rookie RBs tend not to earn much playing time under Bill Belichick, but it appears that the coach is willing to make an exception given Stevenson’s strong performance.
Fantasy owners should now view Stevenson as a high-quality sleeper and a top handcuff. Harris and White may see more playing time to start the season, but Stevenson could eventually emerge as the team’s top back, or at least a big-time TD threat in the red zone.
Projected Patriots RB depth chart
Here’s a look at how the Patriots’ RB depth chart looks after the Sony Michel trade.
Stevenson may be listed third here, but he’s really the top handcuff to Harris, as White will continue to be a third-down specialist even if Harris struggles or gets injured. All three of the Patriots’ top RBs have fantasy value, so feel free to target them in your fantasy football drafts.
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