2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Trey Sermon (Fantasy Football)

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Prior to the 2020 season, Trey Sermon was a bit of a dark horse to be in the conversation as one of the top running backs in the 2021 class. He certainly wasn’t being mentioned as being in the same tier as Travis Etienne or Najee Harris. However, after a strong performance against Clemson in the College Football Playoff, Sermon has dynasty managers excited about the possibility of him being an emerging value outside of the first round of rookie drafts. What should fantasy managers expect from the RB out of Ohio State? Let’s dive in!

Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.

College Production Profile
School Games Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards Rushing TD Receptions Receiving Yards Receiving TD
2017 Oklahoma 13 121 744 5 16 139 2
2018 Oklahoma 14 164 947 13 12 181 0
2019 Oklahoma 10 54 385 4 8 71 1
2020 Ohio State 8 116 870 4 12 95 0

Coming out of high school, Trey Sermon was recruited by the big-time programs in the country – Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Oklahoma, etc. He committed to Oklahoma where he began his college career as a Sooner. Encouraging for Sermon’s production profile, he got on the field early in his college career and started producing right away as a freshman as part of a committee backfield. After a breakout campaign in 2018 where Sermon helped lead the Sooners to the College Football Playoff, his 2019 was cut short thanks to a season-ending knee injury. Sermon injured the LCL, the ligament that sits on the outside of the knee, and was forced to shut it down in 2019, ending his Oklahoma career.

He transferred to Ohio State as a grad student and immediately stepped in as the team’s leading rusher, albeit in an inconsistent fashion. Sermon failed to top 70 rushing yards through OSU’s first four games then exploded down the stretch with three straight 100-yard games including a 331 rushing yard performance against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game.

All in all, Sermon’s college production profile appears inconsistent, thanks to changing schools, a significant injury and a Covid shortened 2020 season, but on the plus side, he’s shown an ability to produce when given a full workload, and he started producing early in his college career, helping him earn a breakout age of 19.6 at Oklahoma.

Measurables
Height Weight 40-Yard Dash Vertical Jump 3-Cone 20-Yard Shuttle
6’0″ 215 lbs. 4.57 sec 37″ 6.83 sec 4.28 sec

*Measurements taken from Ohio State’s Pro Day

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At 6 feet tall and 215 pounds, Trey Sermon has prototypical running back size for the NFL. His 4.57-second 40-yard dash is probably his worst measurable, ranking in the 37th percentile for the position. For a guy like Sermon, however, speed isn’t his calling card, so this isn’t too surprising to see him score worse than a 4.50. Even so, we’ve seen plenty of NFL backs succeed with 4.5 speed so long as they have tackle-breaking ability to make up for it – more on that soon with Sermon’s tape.

Sermon’s 6.83 second three-cone time ranks in the 87th percentile, demonstrating above-average short-area quickness, which should help him compensate for his lack of elite long speed in the NFL. On tape, Sermon’s quickness and ability to break tackles shows up much more than his ability to run away from defenders, so this athletic testing makes a ton of sense when you watch a back like Sermon. All in all, his athletic profile doesn’t wow you, but he tests above average in most categories.

What’s On Tape

Games viewed: Northwestern (2020), Penn State (2020), Clemson (2020), Texas Tech (2019), Kansas (2019), Baylor (2018)

1. Trey Sermon can break tackles with ease thanks to excellent contact balance and power.

Sermon bounces off defenders thanks to excellent body control and lower body strength. He puts up plays like this over and over on tape, helping him pick up extra yards after contact with ease. For a back who isn’t going to run away from defenders in the NFL, his ability to break tackles to pick up extra yardage will be crucial for his success.

2. Sermon has the ability to stop on a dime and change direction quickly, especially for a back of his size. 

For a running back of his size, Trey Sermon is shifty in tight spaces. He doesn’t really have a super-strong jump-cutting ability, but he can change direction just enough in order to prevent tacklers from getting a clean angle on him, and thus helping him break more tackles. Essentially, he turns tacklers who otherwise would have wrapped him up into arm tacklers, and those are no match for a back like Sermon.

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3. Sermon’s vision in the backfield helps him identify the hole and get upfield quickly with burst. 

Trey Sermon knows how to read his offensive lineman, identify the correct hole in the blocking scheme and get upfield in a hurry. Per PFF, Sermon graded at 88.9 (out of 100) on zone reads while grading at just 69.4 in gap schemes. He’ll do well in the NFL if he can land in an offensive system that utilizes a zone rushing concept.

What’s Not On Tape

1. If you’re looking for a back who’s going to pick up yardage with top-end speed, it’s not Trey Sermon.

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We briefly touched on this when discussing Sermon’s measurables and athletic testing above, but just to review, there isn’t much on tape where Sermon is blowing past defenders in the open field, outside of a blown assignment. If you’re looking for a back who’s going to hit home runs on a consistent basis, it’s probably not Sermon.

2. There isn’t a lot on tape of Trey Sermon catching the football out of the backfield. 

Sermon amassed a total of 48 receptions in four college seasons. To put this in perspective, Travis Etienne, who is largely considered the best pass-catching back in the class, caught 48 balls last year alone. This isn’t to say Sermon can’t catch the football or won’t be involved out of the backfield at the next level – it’s just wasn’t a focal point of his game in college.

2021 Fantasy Outlook

Trey Sermon has the ability to produce at the NFL level, but his landing spot is going to be crucial as he is unlikely to get the same NFL Draft capital as his counterparts, Travis Etienne, Najee Harris, and Javonte Williams. As a result, it’s likely Sermon finds himself on a depth chart in his rookie season behind an incumbent starter. For fantasy purposes in 2021, Trey Sermon is most likely going to find himself in a complementary role so he’ll likely need an injury to the starter ahead of him to be fantasy viable as a rookie.

For dynasty leagues, Sermon is an intriguing prospect in the second round of rookie drafts given the massive upside we’ve seen when he gets a full workload, but dynasty managers will likely need to keep expectations in check in his rookie season. Sermon profiles as the type of prospect where NFL Draft capital is going to matter a lot. If he goes in rounds 3-4, which is realistic, Sermon can be a productive back in the NFL – he just may have to wait a year to be his NFL team’s lead back. However, if Sermon falls to day three of the Draft, his chances of success at the next level will be drastically reduced given the poor historical hit rate of late round running backs.

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