4 reasons Steelers should take RB Trey Sermon in the 2021 NFL Draft

Ohio State Buckeyes running back Trey Sermon (8)College Football Playoff Ohio State Faces Clemson In Sugar Bowl
Ohio State Buckeyes running back Trey Sermon (8)College Football Playoff Ohio State Faces Clemson In Sugar Bowl /
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Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Limited carries in college

While talent and play style are undoubtedly the most important factors in drafting a running back, their usage in college is also important. Running backs break down earlier and often due to their constant abuse as a player. On most plays, they are getting hit which over time wears down a running back. That’s why you see such an early drop off in NFL backs, as their bodies wear down and once, they get into their late 20’s, they typically drop off.

This means that getting fewer carries in college is actually a huge plus for a running back. We’ve seen heavy usage push talented backs out of the first round. Derrick Henry, the best pure back in the NFL, was a second-round pick partly due to the 600 plus carries he had in his three years. Jonathan Taylor last year was a similar story. Meanwhile, Josh Jacobs flashed in limited opportunities. He never had a 1000 yard season, but the talent he displayed despite only carrying the ball about 250 times led to him being a first-round pick.

As for Sermon, his senior status makes his total carries higher than some, but it isn’t astronomical. He has only carried the ball 455 times, with a sizable chunk of those coming in the recent weeks. While this is slightly more than Jacobs had coming out, it isn’t by much considering Sermon has played an extra year. That limited usage in college makes him a more appealing pro prospect as he will likely have more longevity than a back who has carried the ball 600 plus times.

In comparison to an early draft darling for a lot of fans, Najee Harris has carried the ball 638 times already. That means more wear and tear as he has been the bell cow back for Alabama over the past two years. While his tape is slightly more impressive, Sermon may last longer in the NFL due to his more limited college usage. Harris may be the better player earlier in his career, but Sermon could realistically play longer. As well, considering where both players are likely to be drafted, Sermon should be the better value.