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Prospect Preview: Trey Sermon

Prospect Preview: Trey Sermon

Position: RBWeight: 213
College: Ohio StateAge: 22
Height: 6′ 0″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.9232)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

A tale of two tapes, Trey Sermon ended his college career on a high note with an incredible spell at running back for Ohio State, but when you look back at the film from Oklahoma he looks like a different player. Which Trey Sermon are we likely to get in the NFL? We might not truly know until game day, but we can dive into the tape and do our best to pick out the positives and negatives of Sermon’s prospect profile. 

College Production:

Over Sermon’s four-year college career he was able to amass 2,946 yards on the ground, the first 2,076 coming while he was at Oklahoma and the last 870 coming in 2020 at Ohio State. He had his most productive year at Oklahoma in 2018 when he ran for 947 yards and scored 13 touchdowns, at 5.8 yards per carry. In 2020, at Ohio State he just about matched that career-high, but on 48 less carries, touting an improved 7.5 yards per carry. Is Sermon the plodder that we saw at Oklahoma in 2018, or is he the dynamic playmaker out of the backfield that we saw in the College Playoffs? I’m betting on the latter.

Strengths:

  • Train Engine
    • Once Sermon gets rolling he’s a hard man to stop. He’s got a great pad level, and once he makes contact with a defender he keeps his legs moving, often ending up in at least a couple extra yards. For better or worse, he’s not scared of contact at the end of his runs and can be an absolute bruiser. One of the better runners at gaining yards after contact, Sermon’s physicality is going to impress a couple NFL teams.
  • Bell-Cow (?)
    • In Sermon’s final two full games for Ohio State he carried the ball 60 times. The toughness he brings to the football field is impressive and he showed the ability to handle a full workload, and be productive (averaging 8.73 yards per carry during those two games). Not only did he show off this lead back ability, but he also had less than 500 total touches throughout his college career. Perhaps this combination could lead to a nice role at the next level.
  • Sifting Lanes
    • By the end of Sermon’s career, his ability to see past the line of scrimmage and manipulate linebackers was impressive. Something seemed to click for him midway through the 2020 season, and his indecisiveness behind the line was gone. The new and improved Sermon, was patient and helped his blockers get to their assignment, but once a running lane opened up he was able to commit and find open field for the big gains. He might not be the most elusive back in the class, but his ability to see holes develop was a strong suit by the end of his career.

Weaknesses:

  • Average Athletic Profile
    • Coming out of High School, Sermon ran a 4.74 40-Yard Dash. Coming out of Ohio State, with NFL intentions, I’d expect him to improve upon that time a bit, but don’t expect a 4.4 timed 40. Sermon won’t wow anybody with his testing numbers, but his vision and slashing running style will be enough to find production at the next level.
  • Passing Down Production
    • With a total of 48 career receptions, Sermon isn’t going to jump off the screen as a great receiver, but when you take a closer look the numbers are just part of the story. Once Sermon took over the lead role for Ohio State against Northwestern, he saw 3.5 targets per game. This was a huge increase to his average of 1 per game throughout the rest of his career. Sermon looked like a natural pass catcher coming out of the backfield for those final games, and should continue to improve in that area.
  • Tale of Two Tapes
    • As I said before, there’s two prospects to look at here. Oklahoma Trey Sermon played his part in that but wasn’t too special or productive. Meanwhile Ohio State Trey Sermon was an all-around threat who amassed 331 rushing yards in one game against a Top 25 defense. We don’t know what NFL Trey Sermon will look like, and neither will the professional scouts. But what we do know is that there is talent to be shined, which team will be willing to unearth it?

Things to Watch:

Sermon has a Pro Day slated for March 30th, and I’m looking forward to seeing his numbers. There’s a big to-do right now about what numbers are accurate and which ones need to be modified, but at the end of the day I’m looking at the class as a whole. As long as we’re comparing Pro Days to Pro Days, I’m not too concerned. I would expect Sermon to run in the low 4.6 time with a chance to be in the high 4.5’s. His game does not rely on speed, but rather quick bursts and good agility to slice through defenses. 

Projected Round/Contract:

Come time for the NFL Draft, I think Trey Sermon will likely be an early-Day 3 pick, but has the chance to sneak into the 3rd round if a team falls in love with his running style. His college production and injury history brings enough question marks that he’ll be behind at least five or six other running backs in the draft, but it only takes one team to fall in love with him. If he goes early in the 4th round, similar to Josh Kelley ($975,085), he could be looking at a 4-year contract worth a total of about four million dollars. At about a million dollars a year, Sermon could be a great value in rookie drafts.

Team Fits:

My favorite fit for Trey Sermon was, up until Chris Carson ($2,500,000) re-signed, the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, I know the backfield there was already messy, but Sermon just seemed a good fit for the offensive scheme (possibly because my pro comp for Sermon is, in fact, Carson). I kept this in here, because Carson is only signed for two years, and does not carry a large dead cap hit in 2022. On the off-chance that Sermon is drafted to the Seahawks, I think he could be a great stash if you’re looking past 2021.

The Atlanta Falcons and new head coach Arthur Smith would likely love a player like Trey Sermon. First of all he’s inexpensive (early-Day 3), but also he would thrive in their zone-blocking scheme. Sermon has the ability to be a power back in between the tackles, but also offers enough burst to break off big plays off the end of the offensive line. Outside of the run game, his receiving abilities increased throughout his college career, and he would be able to protect the aging Matt Ryan ($26,912,500) immediately on passing downs.

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