Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For all of the pre-draft hype, accolades and recognition that former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley has gotten, one player who has quietly gone unnoticed in the media is Sony Michel from Georgia.

Michel, a 23-year-old, 5’11 212-pound native of Plantation, Florida, burst onto the national scene in rushing for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns down in Athens. In what may have been his national showcase game, Michel rushed for 181 yards on just 11 carries en route to being named Rose Bowl MVP in a thrilling 54-48 win over projected first-round pick Baker Mayfield and the second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Michel would be seemingly held in check by the stout Alabama defense in the CFP title game in rushing for 98 yards on 14 carries.

While not as highly regarded as the forementioned Barkley, Michel may be a more complete back.

In a class that features himself, Barkley, USC’s Ronald Jones, Kerryon Johnson of Auburn, San Diego State’s Rashad Penny, Derrius Guice of LSU, his now-former backfield partner in Nick Chubb, Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage and Akrum Wadley of Iowa,

and Michel may be perhaps the best overall—as well as the most overlooked.

Per, Michel is currently listed as the second-best back just behind Barkley. Thanks to his versatility in both the running and passing game, Barkley is a likely late first or early second-round running back.

The only issue that may scare teams is his age.

At 23, Michel is the oldest running back in the 2018 NFL Draft, and as we all know that in the NFL, running backs have a short shelf life. Per a 2012 post on titled, What Is The Length Of An NFL Running Back’s Career? the average length of a NFL running back is a minimum of 2.5 years to four to five. Mind you, the post is from 2012, and before the advent of the now modern-day NFL devaluation of running backs. Kevin Seifert of ESPN’s NFL Nation penned a fabulous article on when running backs beginning to cliff at 27. With Michel just turning 23 on February 17, at best Michel will produce a solid three years before beginning to hit that proverbial cliff—curse you Max Kellerman!

Now in the age of a pass-happy league and uber-talented tailbacks such as Ezequiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, LeVeon Bell and Leonard Fournette, Michel may not have to worry about that dreaded cliff, as it may be more a soft grassy-filled canyon and run right through that myth.

Thanks to the aforementioned backs being drafted in the top ten over their last  three seasons, Michel may become the biggest beneficiary of the current day devaluation of running backs and cruise right on by that cliff like he’s taking the scenic route on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Hopefully for him, his NFL career is just as breathtaking and stunning.

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