Summary: Even though Sermon never produced a 1,000-yard season in college, he is clearly a gifted running back who has the ability to do a lot more. Sermon played at Oklahoma for three seasons before transferring to Ohio State, and at both programs, Sermon was part of a running back rotation with other future NFL competitors. If Sermon had gone to a school with less backfield talent and played as the feature back, he could have produced some huge stat lines across his college career.
Sermon contributed as a freshman, averaging 6.1 yards per carry for 744 yards and five touchdowns. He also had the most receptions of his career working with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, catching 16 passes for 139 yards and two scores. Sermon put together his most consistent season as a runner in 2018, although it was the only year in which he saw more than 150 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns - 164 carries. He also had 12 receptions for 181 yards. In 2019, his final season with Oklahoma, Sermon only had 54 carries for 385 yards and four touchdowns.
Sermon moved on to Ohio State for 2020. The senior averaged 7.5 yards per carry for 870 yards and four touchdowns for the Buckeyes. He also made 12 catches for 95 yards. Sermon came up critical in crunch time, including 331 yards on 29 carries, against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. He also rolled over Clemson in the semifinal with 193 yards and a score on 31 carries.
For the NFL, Sermon is a hard-charging running back who could turn into a three-down starter in the right system. He is a physical runner with quality quickness and a strong build. Sermon uses that strength to pick up yards after contact; he fights through tacklers and is capable of tossing defenders to the side to pick up more yardage. The trait that really stands out is how well Sermon finishes runs, as he falls forward for extra yards and is able to push through defenders at the end of plays to generate more gains for his offense. He has good contact balance, a strong stiff arm, and speed to hit the hole with acceleration to the second level.
As a pro, Sermon will need the right system, which would be one that sets up his holes for him, because he is not a creative runner who can make things happen on his own. He puts more pressure on his offensive line to make sure they give him lanes. He is not shifty, lacks anticipation, does not have good vision, and is below average at setting up blocks. Hence, he needs a good line to be effective.
Sermon has potential in the passing game, but he was never used in that role very much in college. He has the size and physical ability to block as well, but he will need coaching there. As a receiver, his route running could use refinement. He won't be a dynamic receiving contributor, but he could become solid in this regard.
Sermon could be a second-day pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Some team sources like Sermon as a potential third-round pick. If he slips to Day 3, he should go in the early rounds.
Player Comparison: DeMarco Murray. Sermon reminds me of Murray in that they have the potential to be really good backs in the right system. Murray (6-1, 220) and Sermon are similar in size with strength and quickness. Murray was a third-round pick out of Oklahoma, and Sermon could be a third-round pick this year.