Patriots take Dawg-pound approach

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  At around 10:40 on Thursday night, Sony Michel sent his college roommate, Isaiah Wynn, a text message congratulating him on being drafted by the New England Patriots. Less than an hour later, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called him, too.

   The Patriots completed a double-dip on former Georgia team captains in the first round of the draft and added an exciting new element to their backfield by selecting the running back Michel with the No. 31 overall pick.

   "I was startled, I was excited," said Michel, a Plantation, Fla., native who watched the draft at home with his family. "I'm just honored to be able to get a call from a prestigious program like the Patriots. It was just excitement. No words can really describe what the feeling was like."

   Michel, 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds, started only two games in 2017 but managed to rack up 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns on 156 carries while sharing touches with fellow Bulldog Nick Chubb in the backfield. Though Michel has a solid build, he's quick and evasive and averaged an SEC-best 7.9 yards per carry in 2017. Michel wasn't a major factor in the passing game, but he did catch nine balls for 96 yards and a touchdown last season for Georgia. He also has some experience as a kick returner.

   Michel will always have a place in Georgia football history for his performance in the Rose Bowl, where was named offensive MVP after scoring four touchdowns, including one on a 75-yard run that set a Georgia record for longest rushing touchdown. He scored the game-winner in double overtime, setting a career-high of 181 yards in the process.

   It was a bit of a surprise to see the Patriots select a running back in the first round, something they haven't done since they drafted Laurence Maroney in 2006, according to Nora Princiotti of the Boston Globe. It filled a need, as New England hadn't taken a running back in any of the previous three drafts, but bucked the team's trend of finding backs at a bargain.

   "There's no template in terms of how you put it together," said Nick Caserio, the Patriots' director of player personnel. "Our thing is, each year, is to pick good football players and try to get as many good football players on our football team as possible so that's what we try to do."

   Caserio also noted that Michel has "pretty good skills and he's athletic, he's good in space and he's a strong runner for his size at 210, 215 pounds or whatever he is."

   Fumbles were a problem for Michel in college. The senior fumbled 12 times in four years at Georgia, something that had to concern the Patriots, who, like all teams, prioritize ball security. Michel was up front and said it was something he'd have to work on.

   "It's all about being aware of how I carry the football," Michel said. "Ball placement. It's a part of my game that I probably should focus on, work on. I'm sure, there's great coaches at the Patriots that's going to be right there emphasizing ball security, emphasizing on not putting the ball on the ground and that's a very important aspect of this game."

   Caserio said the Patriots "don't think it's an issue," because they are confident they can teach better ball security once they have a player in their building working with their coaches. He cited former New England running back Kevin Faulk as an example. The Ringer's Mike Lombardi reported earlier this week that Michel had a bone-on-bone issue in his knee, and there were multiple other reports that teams had some medical concerns regarding him. Caserio said New England had all the information it needed to feel "comfortable" making the pick, and Michel said that he is healthy.

   "I'm not sure what's out there but I've been playing with no problems," he said. "I don't have any injuries so I'm not sure what you guys are hearing."

   Michel joins a Patriots backfield that will have to make up for the loss of Dion Lewis via free agency. He will join James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill and Brandon Bolden in the running backs room. He will also join a team that has three of his former college teammates -- Wynn, center David Andrews and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell - on the roster. Perhaps Michel will even get his old roommate back.