Fantasy football is a fickle beast. It happens every year: a guy breaks out and has a great week, only to get injured in the effort and once again becoming immediately irrelevant. This holds true this week for Patriots RB Sony Michel who went off for 117 yards in Week 3, only to be placed on IR with a quad injury prior to Week 4. So with Michel now riding the pine for the foreseeable future, what does this injury mean for Sony Michel’s fantasy value going forward, and who can possibly replace him on your fantasy team?
Sony Michel’s latest injury is yet another blow to his fantasy value
Before the season started, I made the case for why Sony Michel was a prime candidate to be a bounce-back player for 2020. The metrics, stats, and draft information we had about him all painted a very positive picture of his talents and what he could achieve heading into the season. What they couldn’t explain was his injury history, which is, unfortunately, something intangible and impossible to predict.
There are corners of the fantasy football community that claim that some players are just injury-prone and should be avoided entirely. However, there is also an argument that there is no such thing as being “injury-prone” when players are taking part in a very violent and kinetic sport such as football. It’s a contact sport, after all, so a level of violent contact is to be expected. This can lead to players getting hurt in a variety of ways, and a player’s specific injury history rarely plays a part in determining if or when they’ll get hurt again. Some players just play the game with more risk than others or are put into bad situations based on the offensive scheme. Some just get unlucky and suffer unrelated injury after unrelated injury. Sony Michel is the latter.
Since 2011, Sony Michel has had injuries to his knee, shoulder, ankle, forearm, and foot, all before hitting the IR again this week with a quad injury. Looking at that list it’s hard to say anything other than “Man, that guy gets hurt a lot.” It’s hard to connect the dots. For instance, there are some injuries that tend to be connected, like hamstring and knee injuries, but this long list of ailments doesn’t fit that bill. Michel just plays a violent sport and sometimes takes the brunt of the impact in a bad way. That being said, Sony Michel’s fantasy value is tied to his ability to stay on the field, it’s just hard to predict just how and when he’ll be hurt next.
Damien Harris stepped up in Week 4 and may have won the job
Prior to Week 4’s Monday night game with the Chiefs, the Patriots decided to activate Damien Harris from IR after he missed the first three weeks, essentially replacing the ailing Sony Michel on the starting roster. Michel will now be forced to miss at least the next three games to heal up, leaving Harris as the potential breadwinner on the offense going forward alongside veteran running backs James White and Rex Burkhead.
Harris brings a lot of power and youth to a team desperately in need of both. With the departure of QB Tom Brady and the eventual signing of QB Cam Newton, it’s clear that this team is in a transition period. The talent taking the field now isn’t exactly old but they’re not really that young either. At the start of the season, the Patriots had the sixth oldest starting roster in the league at 26.4 years old on average. Harris is only 23, appears ready to take up the mantle as the starting running back and should be primed to do well in fantasy as long as he can stay healthy.
Harris easily becomes a starting option in most fantasy leagues, mainly due to the absence of Michel but also due to the scarcity at the position across the league. White has been a staple of PPR lineups for years now and will continue to do so, giving the Patriots two solid options out of the backfield for fantasy managers. With Harris leading the backfield with 17 carries for 100 yards in Week 4, it’s pretty clear that the only one this hurts is Burkhead, who will likely return to fantasy waivers to await further injury to his teammates before becoming relevant again later.
What is Sony Michel’s fantasy future?
But let’s go back to Michel for a minute. While he will miss the next three games on IR, odds are good for him to return at some point this season. He was playing well, albeit spotty, prior to getting hurt, but the team had also struggled to find its identity under Newton as a whole. If Sony can indeed come back and fight with Harris for touches, he should be worth a look for flex consideration down the stretch.
Dynasty fantasy managers have likely had enough of Michel though and could be trying to get out from under him at this point. Most of the managers that have him rostered now have likely been his sole champion in their league, making trading him away all the more difficult. If you can time it just right, and the current Michel manager is in a position to make a run for the title this year, it’s possible you can pull Michel away for as little as a future 3rd round pick or high upside WR, adding some much needed RB depth to your bench for your own title run later this season.
Michel is currently only 25 years old and is looking at only one more year under contract with the Patriots. He is scheduled to be paid around $3 million in total for 2021, which isn’t much for a starting RB. If we look at his long term potential, it’s very likely that he ends up on a different team in 2022, especially if Harris wins the job. This could possibly put a large chip on his shoulder and give him a solid ax to grind as well. Sony Michel is still young and has a lot of value left for fantasy managers willing to hold on and ride the rollercoaster. Therefore, now is an ideal time to see if you can trade for him while his value is at its lowest. You never know, you might hit the jackpot.
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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.