Perhaps no prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft has spent meaningful time in two offenses as prolific yet different than running back Trey Sermon. That experience makes well-built rusher an intriguing Day 2 or 3 prospect.
Sermon spent three years as a featured running back for the Oklahoma Sooners but never managed to win the lead role, yielding carries to Rodney Anderson, Kennedy Brooks, and Rhamondre Stevenson. Unwilling to play second fiddle again, Sermon transferred to Ohio State last offseason in hopes of filling the starting role vacated by J.K. Dobbins. The plan worked, as Sermon took the reins in the backfield and led the team with 116 carries for 870 yards and four touchdowns while the Buckeyes rolled to an appearance in the College Football Championship Game.
Now with a season as the lead back under his belt, Sermon graduates to the NFL as one of the better-seasoned rookie prospects at the position.
As a one-cut runner with good size, Sermon probably surprised many when he delivered an overall strong pro day at Ohio State. Some might focus on his pedestrian 4.61-second 40-yard dash, but his 1.49-second 10-yard split highlights his burst and his other key scores — a 37-inch vertical and 6.83-second 3-cone drill — showcase his athleticism. With his 6-foot, 215-pound frame, he can run through contact and break tackles, even at the next level. At least physically, Sermon seems well built for the wide-zone runs that have come to dominate NFL offenses in recent years.
But while Sermon’s testing and senior season suggest a nice upside, he doesn’t consistently demonstrate the vision or decisiveness required to thrive in the league. Those issues matter less on inside runs where physical traits and blocking greatly determine the outcome. But if a team running a variation of Kyle Shanahan’s scheme takes Sermon, he will need to improve in both areas in order to carve out a role.
Mock Draft landing spots
Given Sermon’s potential in a wide-zone scheme, it makes sense for him to land with a team like the Atlanta Falcons late on Day 2 or early on Day 3. The presence of Mike Davis allows Sermon to ease into the NFL, and new Falcons head coach has unlocked the potential of running backs before. Sermon could likewise appeal to the Tennessee Titans — Smith’s former team — playing behind Derrick Henry.
Fantasy impact: Rookie year
Sermon probably shouldn’t expect to see double-digit carries regularly as a rookie unless injuries clear a path, though he could earn a featured role near the end of the season if he improves on his weaknesses. But until that time, he probably won’t take up a spot on a fantasy roster in most leagues.
Fantasy impact: Career
Sermon has the tools to develop into a starter at the NFL level. That doesn’t make him a fit for every offense, but a handful of teams run schemes that play to his strengths. Even if he doesn’t land in such a situation initially, he could make his way there after a few years. However, Sermon will have to overcome his current shortcomings to fulfill that potential.