It's Sony Michel's time to shine as Patriots running back

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In part due to attrition at the running back position, and also because of his own improvement and upside, rookie Sony Michel is now in a leading role with the New England Patriots.

That has been good news for the team. And also for fantasy football owners.

Michel, the No. 31 overall pick in the NFL draft, said Wednesday that he has been "taking little steps and getting better each and every day." It's been a timely and much-needed emergence after running backs Jeremy Hill (torn ACL in Week 1) and Rex Burkhead (concussion/neck in Week 3) landed on injured reserve.

Those injuries have left just Michel and passing back James White at the position, with the Patriots adding Kenjon Barner as a No. 3 option, although he has been on and off the roster.

When the Patriots host the Chiefs on Sunday night, Michel and White are expected to receive the bulk of the playing time once again.

"Sony's a tough kid, runs hard, certainly willing to engage in contact -- he was at Georgia -- and he's a tough guy to bring down," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "So his run style fits what we try to do here. I think we've seen some decent things from him here in the first few weeks that he's been up and active, and we'll continue to try to work hard to get better."

Indeed, as McDaniels noted, the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Michel missed all four preseason games and the regular-season opener after undergoing a procedure to drain fluid from his knee in early August. So after appearing in the last four games -- and playing 13, 23, 33 and 27 offensive snaps -- he's just now at the point he would have been had he played in the preseason.

"I'm able to go out there and cut and not be able to think about it," Michel said, before adding he can always improve in various areas, such as explosiveness, cutting and change of direction.

Fantasy football owners who invested in Michel have benefited, as he had 18 carries for 98 yards and one touchdown last Thursday, which came after he had 25 carries for 112 yards and one touchdown in a Week 4 win over Miami.

Injuries to Hill and Burkhead have clarified the picture on a Patriots team that has often rotated its running backs but doesn't have the depth and personnel to do it at this time.

That's why it's Michel's time to shine.

"I like his run style," McDaniels said. "He missed all the preseason, and he just works hard to try to get better, and we're trying to work with him to do that. He's certainly helped us and hopefully will continue to improve as we go forward."