New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) had 931 yards and six scores on 2019 carries last season while appearing in 13 games. He should see a bump in production in 2019, while aided by a friendly schedule. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Value and opportunity are two key factors for a successful fantasy football season.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel could be the best example of that for 2019. Michel enters this year as the Patriots' lead back, despite the team having several other options at the position. He should be a top-priority target for you in your fantasy football draft.
Michel has eight matchups this season against defenses which ranked inside the top 10 for fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs in 2018. Those eight games are tied with New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell for the most such matchups in the NFL.
Three of Michel's first six games this season come against such teams, with the first great matchup coming in the second week of the season against the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and third-most rushing yards to opposing running backs in 2018. Michel's next solid matchup comes in Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game and second-most rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs in 2018. His third early season matchup against a previously generous unit comes in Week 6 against the New York Giants. The Giants allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2018.
The Patriots used a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on former Alabama running back Damien Harris and have pass-catching dynamo James White and Rex Burkhead on the roster, but Michel has been working with the first team throughout camp and will have the first opportunity to carve out a major role.
While Bell doesn't have as many early season matchups to help you get out to a quick start, he will likely have a larger workload than Bell and could have greater value down the stretch. His eight great matchups should be a good reason for you to move him up in your personal rankings as an elite first round option in your fantasy football draft.
Bell will likely be picked in the top 10 of your fantasy football draft, while Michel can be had in the fourth round in a 14-team league, according to his current average draft position. Michel's value in that spot would allow you to load up on other positions earlier in your draft.
Alternatively, Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott has just two matchups in 2019 against defenses that ranked inside the top 10 for allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2018. The Kansas City Chiefs also have just two of those matchups, slightly downgrading Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde.
Elliott and Pittsburgh Steelers star James Conner also have the fewest matchups (2) in 2019 against teams that ranked inside the top 10 for allowing the fewest amount of fantasy points to opposing running backs last season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins backfields should also be slightly downgraded as those teams have just three matchups against those 10 defenses in 2019.
If you are looking for a quick start, take a look at Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram. He has five games in the first six weeks of the 2019 season against defenses who were the most generous to opposing running backs for fantasy points in 2018. He also doesn't have a bye week until Week 8.
Running back matchups in 2019 vs. most-generous defenses from 2018
Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets -- 8
Sony Michel, New England Patriots -- 8
James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers -- 7
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals -- 6
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams -- 6
Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens -- 6
Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos -- 6
Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks -- 6
Matt Breida -- Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers -- 6
Running back matchups in 2019 vs. least-generous defenses from 2018
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons -- 8
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts -- 8
Lamar Miller, Houston Texans -- 7
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints -- 7
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- 7
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers -- 6
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams -- 6
Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers -- 6
Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs -- 6
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars -- 6
Most great matchups through first six games
Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens -- 5
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings -- 3
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers -- 3
Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks -- 3
Matt Breida -- Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers -- 3
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills -- 3
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts -- 3
Sony Michel, New England Patriots -- 3