Trey Sermon's Fantasy Outlook After Being Picked by 49ers in 2021 NFL Draft

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 1, 2021

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon runs through a drill during an NFL Pro Day at Ohio State University on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
Paul Vernon/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers selected Ohio State running back Trey Sermon with the No. 88 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft on Friday.

Sermon joins a very crowded San Francisco backfield that includes Jeffery Wilson, Raheem Mostert, Wayne Gallman and JaMycal Hasty. The rookie can make the case for being the most talented running back in the bunch, however, and the one with the most upside as well.

The former Buckeye had 116 carries for 870 rushing yards (7.5 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in seven-plus games. He shared time with Master Teague in the backfield but eventually took over down the stretch for the national championship runner-up.

Sermon notably had 331 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern before adding 254 total yards and a score in the College Football Playoff semifinal versus Clemson.

Unfortunately, Sermon suffered a collarbone injury in the first quarter of the national championship against Alabama and did not return.

Now Sermon moves onto the NFL, where he'll look to carve out time in the San Francisco backfield.

From a fantasy perspective, Sermon is a late-round flier at best considering the potential running-back-by-committee nature of the San Francisco backfield. Sermon simply may not get enough carries to justify having as a backup, let alone starting.

The other issue is that Sermon has never been used as a big pass-catching threat during his collegiate career regardless of whether he was at Oklahoma (where he played from 2017-2019) or OSU. He never had more than 16 catches or 181 receiving yards in a given year.

Of course, that could change in Kyle Shanahan's creative offensive schemes, but on paper, Sermon likely wouldn't be providing much in the pass game. That lowers his fantasy outlook, especially in point-per-reception leagues.

In addition, Shanahan has a tendency to roll with backfield committees. He went with Carlos Hyde as a bell cow in his first year in San Francisco (299 touches in 2017), but no 49ers running back has had more than 180 touches in a year ever since.

That's partially due to injuries, but Shanahan can also ride the hot hand. Of note, Tevin Coleman dominated in the NFC Divisional Round against the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 playoffs, but it was Raheem Mostert who scored four touchdowns in the NFC Championship against Green Bay.

That makes drafting Sermon a dicey proposition at best. You're probably better off finding running backs with a clearer shot at more playing time. The best argument for Sermon is his talent, and it's possible he ends up being RB1 in the San Francisco backfield.

The second-best argument is a clear scheme fit, which Sermon explained in his press conference with reporters following the pick Friday.

"I know I fit in well with what they do. I know they love the outside zone a lot and that was our bread and butter at Ohio State. This is a great fit for me and I’m going to be able to have a big impact," Sermon said (h/t Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News).

Still, it's hard seeing him garnering enough touches to take a chance in fantasy drafts. A wait-and-see approach may be best with Sermon in order to decipher where he winds up in the 49ers pecking order.