Leonard Fournette vs. Sony Michel: Which 5-Star RB Is Better?
So far, in regards to this 2014 recruiting class, two of the best overall players and prospects happen to play the same position. Leonard Fournette of Louisiana and Sony Michel of Florida are two exceptional talents who have a chance to be special college running backs.
To say that I'm impressed with these two prospects would be an understatement. I marveled at their film when I watched both of them, and each back graded out very high in evaluations. They easily rank as my top two RB prospects right now and are both 5-star recruits who are among the best talents in the country regardless of position.
With both runners being so good, the question to beg now is which one is better? Well, you know we've never shied away from a 5-star position battle around here, and we're going to square Fournette and Michel off vs. each other.
Let's run both guys through several key positional factors and make a final conclusion of who's better between them.
Fournette has been listed from 6'0" to as tall as 6'2" on various lists. He weighs between 220 and 230 pounds and has great size for a RB. His frame is very muscular and thick, and he looks like a college junior right now. Size isn't a concern at all with Fournette.
Michel isn't as tall as Fournette, standing about 5'10" or 5'11". He's added bulk and now weighs about 205 pounds. His frame is extremely impressive, as Michel is in excellent condition, has a chiseled body and could add on more bulk easily.
Vision and Instincts
This is not a guy who runs like a robot with the football. Fournette has very good vision, awareness, feel and instincts. He can see backside holes develop, knows where defenders are and doesn't miss alleys. The big man is creative.
Last year, Keith Ford had maybe the best vision of the top tier RB prospects. This year, it could be Michel, as I've seen this guy see backside alleys develop before the blocks are even made. He has excellent instincts, and this category may be his best intangible asset.
Quickness, Change of Direction and Elusiveness with the Ball
If you think the big man is just a straight line guy with no wiggle, then you're sadly mistaken. Fournette has great elusiveness in the open field and can work easily in space. He's very quick in tight areas and can elude anyone he wants with the ball.
Don't classify Michel as a shake and bake guy, but he has a lot of it in his game. His change of direction skills and agility are very impressive. Michel flashes jump cut ability and very quick feet, which allow him to do things with a sudden force of movement.
Strength and Power
Fournette has the capability to run with outstanding strength and force, which allows him to run through arm tackles. He has good leg drive to push piles and can break wrap tackles from leaky-yardage tacklers. He will be able to finish runs with power in college, especially around the goal line.
As I said before, don't restrict Michel to just an elusive guy. He's got solid power and run strength, and I'm not concerned at all about him in this category. Michel can break some tackles, can run very hard and can push a pile or two.
Speed and Explosiveness
Sometimes, believe it or not, Fournette's smooth acceleration and burst remind me of Thomas Tyner's. Yes, it's that smooth and that explosive. Fournette can out-run defenders to spots and to the end zone thanks to great speed and a sudden burst.
The smoothness of Michel's running style makes him seem like he's on cruise control at times in the open field. He's got an explosive burst that jumps off the tape when you see it and I get fired up when I see it. Michel's long speed is very good, and I've seen him break off big runs time and time again.
Hands and Ability to Factor in the Passing Game
I've seen this big guy on tape line up as a receiver and run slants and seam routes while looking every bit as comfortable as any receiver in the nation. Fournette has good hands, ball skills and is to be used as a weapon on third downs and other passing situations. He can do more than just catch swings and screens.
Watching Michel, it's nothing for him to line up in the slot in empty formations and work on LBs, Ss or even CBs. He has great hands, can run slants and speed outs like a WR and looks more than comfortable doing it. Michel should be a QB's first read in the passing game.
I love both of these backs, and I fully believe they'd be very highly ranked even if they were in last year's talented crop of RB prospects.
Michel is going to be a star in college and has been producing against varsity competition in Florida since the eighth grade. Fournette is a legend in Louisiana and should be star in college too.
Both guys have the size, speed, instincts, strength and hands to be rare three-down backs. Just because I'm forced to settle this now and choose one, I'll go with Fournette with the deciding factor being his size and that he's a little bit stronger at this point.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.