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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: RB Trey Sermon

  • The Draft Network
  • December 26, 2020
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Ohio State running back Trey Sermon is one of the hottest running back prospects in football on the heels of an offensive explosion amid the Ohio State Buckeyes’ run to the National Championship game. Sermon wrangled the primary ball-carrier duties after splitting the load for much of the season with Master Teague III and has made the most of his opportunities; shredding two high-profile defenses in high-profile games. Sermon’s skill set and production will be the latest argument against drafting running backs high in the draft—Sermon is expected to be a mid-round prospect thanks to some inefficiencies and a lack of production on third downs; but on a team that runs inside and split zone with success, Sermon can be super productive (just as he was in such concepts for the Buckeyes down the stretch). Sermon has the physicality, contact balance, ball security, and toughness to be an early-down back and shoulder the majority of the load for an NFL team—he’ll be an economic option for zone-based teams looking to boost their ground game and add some toughness into the mix. As an added bonus, between his tenure at Oklahoma and his one season at Ohio State, Sermon has not logged 200-plus carries in a single season; there’s reason to believe that there should be plenty of life left in his legs for a significant long-term return on investment. 

Ideal Role: Early-down starting running back in communal stable.

Scheme Fit: Split/inside zone heavy rushing attack.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Houston (2019), Penn State (2020), Michigan State (2020), Northwestern (2020), Clemson (2020)

Best Game Studied: Clemson (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Penn State (2020)

Vision: It’s hard to get a clear picture of what Sermon’s acumen is here because he’s operated in two wide-open offenses between Oklahoma and Ohio State. He’s come alive in 2020 as his offensive line has turned up the heat and he’s often got a clear gap to press to accelerate into the second level. He does well to feel closing defenders in the open field and sets up challenges to break tackles well. I’m also encouraged by how well he’s felt backside cuts available to him; he’s popped out the back door as he presses the LOS for a number of big gains. 

Footwork: He’s a bit of a long strider and his lateral cuts are forcible but not overly dynamic when compared to some of the other successful one-cut runners of recent years. Sermon does well to stay square and leave himself lateral cuts, but his ability to reset and accelerate out of a hard cut is going to allow pursuit to close back in around him; he’ll be best in shallow angles to adjust and find daylight. 

Contact Balance: Sermon offers a ferocious stiff arm and will successfully absorb body blows. On a number of occasions, he’s contorted himself through tackle challenges and nearly rolled over the body of defenders to keep his eligibility. Sermon is a tough runner between the tackles and you appreciate his leg drive when he gets into a heads-up challenge to drive and keep his momentum. 

Durability: Sermon’s career at Oklahoma was cut short with a knee injury, but he’s bounced back with a vengeance this season. Sermon has the running style to play punishing football but still theoretically absorb body blows and take on a high workload. As a silver lining, Sermon hasn’t surpassed 200-plus carries in a single season, so he should be expected to have bounce in his step year over year for the foreseeable future. 

Explosiveness: Sermon has popped off some big runs but they’re routinely coming with a vacant gap to slash into—his acceleration is good but not great and as a result, he’ll be challenged to bring 50-plus yard runs to the end zone without having to filter his way through some tackle challenges first. He’s violent but not especially bouncy with his lateral cuts, so he can stop on a dime but he’s not going to drive back across his momentum to force big hitters on his own along the edge. 

Versatility: The receiving impact for Sermon has been negligible to this point in his career. That isn’t to say there isn't room for growth here, but Sermon is much more appealing as an early-down ball carrier than he is someone who will be featured in the passing game or on outside rushing concepts. Keeping him between the tackles keeps him in position to make the most successful chunk gains. 

Elusiveness: Sermon is a tough chore to wrangle in the open field because of his free arm use. He’s got a nasty stiff-arm at his disposal and has embarrassed defenders in the open field who come slashing in on challenges. Sermon has a bit of wiggle and defenders who are flat-footed to challenge his power can get caught in the mud; he’s even gone over the top on a hurdle to pick up a few extra yards. But if you box him in with sound run fits, he’s not going to create a ton of yardage on his own. 

Ball Security: Sermon entered 2020 with just one career fumble—he’s secure with the football and does well to offer protection to churn tough yards between the tackles. Sermon is dedicated to keeping the football tucked, too; so it isn’t like he’s lucked his way into strong ball security throughout his collegiate career. 

Passing Down Skills: Both Ohio State and Oklahoma hardly used him here. He has, on his handful of reps as a check-down receiver, looked fairly natural to pluck with his hands; although he’s clearly not comfortable or well versed in running routes or engaging in chip releases. Pass protection offers plenty of potential given his frame, but this hasn’t been an area where he’s illustrated a lot of value, either—he needs more gusto and assertiveness here. 

Discipline: Haven’t seen many examples of him going wild or freelancing his way into chaotic plays and taking big losses in the backfield. He respects the designed track and will press patiently if there’s nothing apparent; he just subsequently lacks the ceiling to reaccelerate and find chunk plays if he’s forced to slow play with consistency. 


TDN Consensus: 75.50/100

Joe Marino: 75.00/100

Kyle Crabbs: 75.50/100

Jordan Reid: NA/100

Drae Harris: 76.00/100

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