Prospect Profile: RB Trey Sermon
Jake Pittman - 2/5/2021
Prospect Profile: RB Trey Sermon
Trey Sermon is a 6’0" 215 pound running back who played for both Oklahoma and Ohio State University. Sermon had a bit of an up and down career in college. He showed a lot of promise in his sophomore year at Oklahoma, but an injury derailed his junior season. After thinking through his options, he decided that transferring to Ohio State to play along QB Justin Fields and fill the hole that RB JK Dobbins left behind was the best decision for his career. Sermon wasn’t in the minds of a lot of NFL Draft analysts as a solid prospect until he erupted for a school record 331 rushing yards in the Big 10 Championship against Northwestern and put on a phenomenal display in the College Football Playoffs. Sermon has now become a top 10 running back prospect in this year’s draft with a lot of teams interested in his abilities.
Trey Sermon is a big, strong and physical runner. He has very impressive hips for his size. Sermon runs incredibly hard, but still seems to have the awareness to use his flexible hips to create space for himself before defenders can close in on him. He uses this shifty ability to make defenders a little bit off balance so that he can run over them or push them aside to gain extra yardage. He is not a speedy back, but he has enough to get down the field when there is open space, but he will not breakaway from defenders that have a solid pursuit angle on him. What he does make up for his lack of speed with, is his outstanding stiff arm. He relies on this technique for the most part when facing smaller players in the second level, and it has worked out for him for the vast majority of his runs in college. I don’t seem him having the elite traits to become a star player at the next level, but his toughness and physical running style can certainly assist teams when you need to grind out the clock. Sermon is also a capable blocker in pass protection and has average hands for a larger running back. That being said, his pass-catching ability would not be something that draws teams to draft him over any other player.
While Sermon offers a lot of strong traits, he has a number of concerns. What troubled me very often while watching his tape was his reckless plays with no concern for his own safety. When facing a defender head on, Sermon will often times attempt to hurdle the player in front of him, even when there is not a very good opening for it. With his prior injury history, his physical playing style and his reckless abandonment of his body, Sermon worries me as a player full of concerns of stability and health at the next level.
Sermon has a running style that doesn’t tend to fare well in the NFL, but in light of recent event it may not be as a big of a concern as it seems. Sermon runs very upright. While he does have flexible hips and a strong body, he runs straight up and this high center of gravity has shown to make it easier for smaller defenders to bring down players like this. The thing is there is another NFL RB who also has the same type of running style, and that is Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry, who just eclipsed 2,000 yards in one season. While Sermon is nowhere near the size and speed that Henry is, Henry also was a concerning prospect due to this same concern. Sermon also has much better agility and quickness than Henry did at this point in his career.
All that being said, while his running style and lack of straight-line speed are concerning for his future as a productive featured back, his tough, physical play and his shifty, flexible hips and feet give him the opportunity to be a good option for teams in need of ground and pound runner.
A player that I was reminded of while watching Trey Sermon, was current New Orleans Saints RB Latavius Murray. While Murray is a few inches taller and has 15 pounds on Sermon, they have a very similar style of play. They both had concerns over their upright style of running, but they are both punishing players who can run defenders over or toss them to the side when they need to. I also think that Sermon’s career trajectory may follow a similar path that Murray’s has. While Murray has spent time as the lead back for a couple of needy teams, he has thrived in his role with the Saints when coming is as a powerful to change up in style to RB Alvin Kamara. I think that this type of role is also where Sermon would fit in best.
Most Likely Fits:
Los Angeles Chargers:
The Chargers offense is on the rise. QB Justin Herbert looks like he is going to be the answer at the QB position. WR Keenan Allen is a star in this league and his counterparts WRs Mike Williams and Jalen Guyton are up and coming players, and TE Hunter Henry is one of the most reliable targets in the league. At the RB position Austin Ekeler is a star in the making. He is one of the most elite receiving backs I have ever studied, but he is not big and strong enough to be a true featured back.Ekeler will get the majority of work at the running back position, but a bigger back like Sermon would be a perfect complement to Ekeler’s skillset. The Chargers have struggled punching the ball in on the ground near the goal line at times this past season, and Sermon would be a great help to make the offense more versatile on short yardage plays. If Sermon were to land with the Chargers he wouldn’t have the workload, barring an injury to Ekeler, to be a consistent producer, but he could be a player similar to Latavius Murray or Kareem Hunt where even in a backup role he could put up some touchdown numbers to make him fantasy relevant.
The Cardinals offense with QB Kyler Murray at the helm has been dynamic, but don’t let their rushing metrics fool you. The Cardinals were not a great rushing team this season. RB Kenyan Drake averaged a measly 4.0 yards per carry and was outperformed on the ground, from an efficiency standpoint, by both Kyler and backup RB Chase Edmonds. Drake seems to have a lost a step from whenhe was as a change of pace back in Miami and the 2019 season in Arizona. Chase Edmonds has shown a lot of flashes of being a solid NFL runner, Drake’s time with the team may not last a whole lot longer. Sermon could slot in as a future contributor in the RB room. His physical play style would offer a nice touch to the Cardinals already tough to defend offense. He would not however have a strong chance of putting up any sort of relevant fantasy numbers in his early years with the team. He would be worth a long-term shot in dynasty however if he could find his way into a role.
New York Jets:
The Jets have, in all senses of the term, been a train wreck in recent memory. They have so many holes that needed to be filled, and RB is not at the top of the list. However, they do need to add a running back this offseason, they just can’t spend the type of draft capital or money to acquire a top option at the moment. Sermon however would not cost them an incredibly early pick. The Jets currently have the everlasting RB Frank Gore and young players La’MicalPerine and Ty Johnson on the roster, but these players are more than likely not the answers for them. A player like Sermon would offer a good option for them with his history of production at a high level of college play. There is also the chance of the Jets moving on from current QB Sam Darnold and taking Sermon’s Ohio State teammate QB Justin Fields at the top of this year’s draft. This could intrigue the Jets to add a player that Fields is familiar with, to help him grow comfortable in the offense. If Sermon were to land with the Jets, then he would have a lot of potential to have a big role in the offense. Even so, the Jets offense is still not going to be a high-flying offense in the near future and his fantasy numbers would be hindered by this lack of offensive production.
All in all, despite his shortcomings, Sermon’s college pedigree and bulldozing abilities can help him to cement a position in an offensive scheme. He doesn’t have an exceptionally easy path to production in the early stages of his career. I project that Sermon’s career will be most well-utilized as a secondary option for a team as a short yardage or early down power runner. I see him falling to a team on late day 2 or day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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