Falcons: Trey Sermon could prove to be fantastic value at the running back position

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Najee Harris has become the draft darling at the running back position after his ridiculous senior season at Alabama. Travis Ettiene should be right there with him on most teams’ big boards, but if the Falcons don’t intend on taking a running back in the first two rounds — which we at SportsTalkATL firmly encourage — Trey Sermon could end up providing better value in the third or fourth round.

Strengths

Sermon has had an abnormal path towards becoming a valued draft prospect. After splitting carries at Oklahoma for three years, he transferred to Ohio State where he began sharing carries with Master Teague before wrestling the job away towards the end of the season.

Sermon’s stock began to rise exponentially after his 331-yard rushing performance against a stout Northwestern defense in the Big 10 Championship game. He followed that up with 193 yards on the ground and 61 yards through the air against Clemson. Unfortunately, he was injured in the first quarter of the National Championship game. It would have been awesome to watch him challenge the Crimson Tide defense, but he had already done enough to prove that he has the skills to succeed at the next level.

Sermon showed he could do it all in an offense down the stretch. He’s a physical back, weighing 215 pounds, that was breaking tackles and making people miss left and right against high-level defenses.

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Even for a bigger sized back, Sermon has tremendous breakaway speed to go along with outstanding contact balance and vision.

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Another plus is Sermon’s ball security. In his college career (over 500 carries), he only had three fumbles.

Weaknesses

There will obviously be concerns about Sermon’s collarbone, which he broke in the National Championship game. However, that should be an injury that is healed before the start of next season. I don’t expect that to hurt his draft stock significantly. More substantial concerns consist of his sample size and receiving capabilities.

While Sermon showed plenty of promise at Oklahoma, he eventually saw his role diminish during his junior season, forcing him to transfer to Ohio State where he was expected to run away with the starting job. That didn’t happen immediately, and most of his production really came from just two games — against Northwestern and Clemson. Now, those are some pretty impressive defenses, but that’s also not much to go off of.

A different perspective is that Sermon’s lack of action could be viewed as a plus in a way. ┬áHe never had more than 164 carries in any season, meaning his legs should be plenty fresh as he enters the league.

Sermon also had a career-high in receptions as a freshman, with just 16 of them. He never tallied more than 12 in any other season. That’s a bit discouraging in a league where offenses are becoming more and more dependent on running backs catching the ball out of the backfield. Sermon is reliable in check-down situations, but he’s not a natural receiver by any means.

Team Fit

Sermon fits well into what Arthur Smith ran during his time in Tennessee. Whether Smith runs more old-school power or split/inside zone heavy, Sermon could play a role in a communal stable of running backs. He could also provide more value than Najee Harris or Travis Etienne, as he is slotted to be drafted on day two or three.

Photo: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

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