Recalling what draft experts said about Trey Sermon

Let’s look back at what NFL Draft experts were saying about running back Trey Sermon and how things went so wrong.

It’s no secret that the NFL Draft is a crapshoot. There are booms and busts, players who reach heights completely unexpected, and others who fall from lofty projections. So the idea that the San Francisco 49ers missed so egregiously on running back Trey Sermon isn’t all that surprising since every team misses on a regular basis.

What is so surprising about Sermon’s case, however, is how quickly it happened.

Earlier this week, the 49ers decided to cut ties with Sermon completely. They released him to free agency and failed to bring him back to the practice squad. It was the final nail in a coffin built during the offseason, especially when the team invested a third-round pick on Ty Price-Davis just one year after investing a third-round pick in Sermon. “At least be quick to admit your mistakes,” they say.

Here’s the thing: running backs are fairly easy to find in the National Football League and making a day two investment in one signals high expectations. Sermon should be a key component of the Niners’ offense moving forward, and even if they got things wrong in some way, it’s hard to believe they couldn’t find some place for his skill set in the backfield in a rotational way.

Sermon was supposed to be the big back running in Kyle Shanahan’s creative schemes working behind Kyle Juszczyk to add another offensive dimension. Shortly before the draft, Sermon was busy bolstering his draft stock with a jaw-dropping run of productivity in his final few games for the Ohio State Buckeyes—with 636 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns sealing consecutive important wins over Northwestern (in the Big Ten championship), Michigan State, and Clemson.

Yet when you look back at what NFL Draft analysts were saying beforehand, Sermon was always a bit suspect for very good reasons that would affect him at the pro level. Lance Zierlein called him a mid-round prospect and said, “Great-looking running back at a quick glance, but one who suffers from inconsistency in creativity and decisiveness.” He went on to say:

At both schools, the interior vision and decision-making was suspect and would run him into some traffic. He does have potential as an outside-zone back, where he has more time and space to utilize his skills.

Jason Hirschhorn of Draft Kings had an ideal read on the situation in his draft profile of Sermon. He praised Sermon’s build and ability to break tackles. However, he also wrote:

While Sermon’s testing and senior season suggest a nice upside, he doesn’t consistently demonstrate the vision or decisiveness required to thrive in the league. Those issues matter less on inside runs where physical traits and blocking greatly determine the outcome. But if a team running a variation of Kyle Shanahan’s scheme takes Sermon, he will need to improve in both areas in order to carve out a role.

Over at Bleacher Report, the word on Sermon was that there was a lot to like and nothing to love.

Sermon is a three-down back who does a lot of things well, showing above-average vision, foot quickness, balance and overall athleticism, but he does not have a defining trait that he can lean on.

At some point, there were some serious miscalculations about what Sermon could do at the next level and/or how he would function within the systems already in place. Instead of shifting schemes in order to accommodate ways in which Sermon could add value, the Niners decided to discard him and move on. Grieve the sunk cost and move on.

It’s another odd swing-and-miss from a front office who also thought Joe Williams and Jerick McKinnon were answers in the draft and free agency respectively only to see things not work out as planned. Price-Davis is the latest hope, but Shanahan and company would be much better off allowing fringe roster guys to show up and impress them rather than reach for a high-profile target who feels like a square peg.