With Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty and Wayne Gallman already on the roster, running back wasn’t a position of need for the San Francisco 49ers heading into last month’s NFL Draft. Yet, the franchise traded two fourth-round picks to move up and select former Ohio State running back Trey Sermon with the No. 88 overall pick.
“We always look for guys we think can play as a starter, whether they are or not,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said on draft night. “If you look at our third back, the last couple years, they’ve had like 38 percent of our carries because of injuries or rotation. That’s been by far more than anyone else in the NFL.
“So, you add him to the mix and see how it unfolds. We have some good guys we believe in, but we also have gone through about four backs every year but my first year (in San Francisco in 2017).”
Sermon had an idea that he would end up with the 49ers, as he had several conversations with running backs coach Bobby Turner leading up to the draft. He also saw a potential fit in Shanahan’s offensive scheme.
“It is very exciting,” Sermon said. “Just being part of this organization, it’s a great team. I feel like this is a great fit for me and I’m going to be able to have a big impact. 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.”
Though he posted a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s pro day on March 30, Sermon’s initial burst, ability to make second-level defenders miss and contributions in the passing game all stood out to San Francisco.
“You look at our backs in the past and I think one common element is the speed,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. "You may look at his 40 time and say he doesn’t really fit, but sometimes 40 times can be deceiving.
“I think what speaks to us is that his (10-second split) time was very good, and you can see that burst. You see that ability to stick his foot in the ground, break tackles and hit it in a hurry, and then he’s very adept at making the free safety or second-level defender miss. He’s very good out of the backfield in the pass game, as well. I think he’s a good fit for what we do.”
Another thing that separates Sermon from the other running backs on the 49ers’ roster – well, aside from sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell – is that he will soon sign a four-year rookie contract with the franchise, whereas Mostert, Wilson, Hasty and Gallman set to hit free agency after the upcoming season.
“I feel like I have all the tools to be a great running back,” Sermon said. “I’m just glad that this organization believes in me and I have the opportunity. I'm going to make the most of it."
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