Sony Michel is why you shouldn't pay running backs

Sony Michel retired, and showed why you shouldn't invest in a running back.
Sony Michel first round pick
Sony Michel first round pick / Al Pereira/GettyImages

When you run an NFL franchise, whether as the general manager or the owner, it's important to have rules on how you run the franchise. These rules should be unbreakable and have no exceptions, or at the very least, minimal exceptions. Abiding by these rules helps you build a franchise, and sustain success.

A franchise model rule that has come under attack in the media recently, is that running backs are not valuable. I would amend the statement to correctly say that the position of running back is valuable, but the players at that position are not. It is a disposable position that I have rated just slightly above punter on the team roster.

The recent retirement of running back Sony Michel highlights, and vindicates the two rules that I have regarding his position in the NFL. The first is, never draft a running back in the first round. The second is never give a running back a big second contract. Failure to adhere to these rules is why franchises never make it out of the basement.

Michel was a first-round pick, which breaks rule number one. The reason that teams should not pick a running back in the first round, is because it's not 1995 anymore. Most teams use a running back by committee, at the very least a two-headed monster with a running back and a receiving back. The teams that still have a workhorse running back, typically don't make the playoffs. 

Drafting a running back passes up on filling more important holes in your starting lineup. We never stop hearing about how Tom Brady had a lack of weapons, and yet they drafted a running back over Cortland Sutton, Christian Kirk, and Michael Gallup.

They did not have a succession plan for tight end, where Gronkowski was very beaten up. They chose running back over Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews. They had no succession plan for the impending loss of Tom Brady, and they passed on the unanimous MVP, Lamar Jackson.

I'm not saying that a team should never draft a running back. I'm just saying take them later in the draft. Look at the success that guys like Derrick Henry (2nd round), Nick Chubb (2nd Round), Miles Sanders (2nd round), and Jonathan Taylor (2nd round) have had. Teams should be addressing every non-kicking possession in the draft that they have holes at before they address the position of running back.

Like many first-round picks, Michel did not live up to a large second contract and thank goodness for that. These teams that ignore rule number two,  and sign running backs to large extensions are dooming themselves. Sony Michel just retired at the age of 28. Todd Gurley was washed up at the age of 26. Immediately following a large contract extension, Christian McCaffrey played 10 games combined in two seasons.

The position takes a lot of punishment, and it leads to a large production drop-off and early retirement. Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs can blame the league all they want for the fact that they have not signed large extensions. The reality is they need to blame their peers. Guys like Sony Michel set the example, and shine a spotlight on the reality of running back mortality.

I'm thankful for all that Michel did for the Patriots, and I wish him a happy life in retirement. I also thank him for showing all of us why you should not draft a running back in round 1, and why you should not sign a running back to a contract extension. I hope the rest of the league was watching, and took away this valuable lesson. At the very least, hopefully, Bill Belichick has learned from his mistake.