Trey Sermon’s collegiate journey was an interesting one. Sermon started with a productive freshman season sharing a backfield with Baker Mayfield and Rodney Anderson. He then was an injury afterthought in 2019, watching Jalen Hurts and Kennedy Brooks lead a potent Oklahoma rushing attack in his absence. Sermon then landed at Ohio State and capped off his only season at the program with dominant performances when it counted most. If he lands with the right team in the NFL, his story at the next level has a chance to be just as noteworthy.
Trey Sermon arrived at Oklahoma as a four-star prospect, per 247Sports. Working in tandem with Rodney Anderson in his first season at Oklahoma muted his overall numbers. His per-carry efficiency painted a more accurate picture of his talent. In 2017, among 227 running backs with 75 or more rushing attempts, he ranked 15th (4.15) in yards after contact per attempt. Unfortunately for Sermon, he didn’t see this type of production on his attempts again until 2020, when he ranked 19th in yards after contact per attempt (among 148 running backs with 75 or more rushing attempts). Diving into his overall resume, some factors can explain this. In 2017, Sermon was deployed on zone runs (63.6% vs. 34.7% gap) on most of his carries. In 2018, Sermon’s usage changed as he was utilized on gap runs (55.4% vs. 40.8% zone) with the majority of his carries. Then in 2019, he sustained an injury to his left knee, and his season was tanked. Arriving at Ohio State started out not as brilliantly as Sermon possibly had hoped. He was stuck in a committee with Master Teague lll until the sixth game of the season. Against Northwestern and Clemson, Sermon was finally unleashed, rolling up 524 rushing yards on 60 carries with three rushing scores. These were no pushover run defenses either. Northwestern ranked 21st in power success rate and stuff rate allowed. In comparison, Clemson ranked 13th in adjusted line yards and 10th in stuff rate allowed per Football Outsiders. In his final collegiate season's biggest games, he showed the world on his biggest stages what he could do. Sermon’s excellence in his final season also coincided with being utilized on zone runs (81%) again heavily.
Trey Sermon the Human Steamroller
Zone scheme steamroller
It’s not hard to see why Sermon is so hard to bring down with a head of steam standing at 6 feet and 213 pounds. Even operating in a committee, Sermon still ranked 33rd amongst all running backs with 33 missed tackles forced. What’s even more impressive is 24 of those came just in the Clemson and Northwestern games. It’s scary to think of what he could do with 200+ carries in a season. He maxed out at 164 totes in 2018, so as physical as he is there is still plenty of tread left on these tires.
Sermon’s excellence inside of a zone scheme is built upon his superb vision and his one-cut downhill approach. He’s not a player that will wow anyone with jump cuts, but he’s surprisingly nimble for a player his size. As a player that will roll up 5-10 yard runs with regularity, he is consistently fighting for those extra yards at the end of his runs. If he lands with a team that possesses an above-average line and deploys zone concepts with regularity, he could post some gaudy stats in his rookie season if given the opportunity.
This is not to say that he can’t become a competent pass catcher at the next level, but this is not one of the boxes Sermon checks right now. Sermon never racked up more than 16 receptions in any collegiate season, so the body of work is limited. The receptions he does have on film are mostly the dump-off variety, so nuanced route running is not something we’ll find here as well. Sermon’s money will be made at the next level on early downs, so this isn’t a nail in the coffin for him.
Even on the long runs Sermon posted at Oklahoma and Ohio State usually end with him being caught from behind. Sermon has the tackle-breaking ability to carve up a defense with multiple 10-15 yard cuts, but the 60-yard gash will be something that evades him in the NFL.
Where will Trey Sermon land in the NFL Draft?
Atlanta Falcons: If Atlanta doesn’t address the position in the early rounds, Sermon could be a player that Arthur Smith moves up for one of his middle or later round selections. Last season under Smith, Derrick Henry amassed the most zone rushing attempts (254, 67.1% of his runs) for any running back. The Falcons have a need at the position and could implement a system that would be perfect for Sermon.
Chicago Bears: The Bears depth chart is woefully thin behind David Montgomery. Tarik Cohen is not a volume back and is recovering from his own injury. Also, Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce are not players you ever want to count on for 15 touches on the ground. Again, if we’re looking for a sneaky landing spot with a scheme that would be perfect for Sermon Chicago fits the bill. If anything happened to Montgomery, Sermon could be the early-down hammer to Cohen’s pass game lightning.
Derek has written for Fantasy Data, 4for4, Player Profiler, and as a co-author of the best selling Fantasy Football Black Book Series. His DFS, redraft, and dynasty takes have been projected to the masses with recurring guest roles on Sirius XM and DK Sweat. Born in Louisiana, he is a diehard Saints fan (Whodat). Derek now resides in Fort Worth, Texas, with his beautiful, football-loving wife and three kids.