2021 NFL draft: Will the real Ohio State's Trey Sermon please stand up?

·23 min read

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here are how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

60. Ohio State RB Trey Sermon

6-foot-1, 217 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.83 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Two-school standout whose hot-and-cold career and lack of elite athletic traits might temper his draft grades somewhat

Games watched: Texas Tech (2018), Houston (2019), Michigan State (2020), Northwestern (2020), Clemson (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 171 nationally), Sermon left the Atlanta area in high school and enrolled early at Oklahoma. As a freshman in 2017, he ran 121 times for 744 yards and five TDs, and caught 16 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games (three starts). Sermon started 12 of 14 games as a sophomore in 2018, rushing 164 times for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 181 yards.

In an injury-shortened 2019 season, he ran 54 times for 385 yards and four TDs and caught eight passes for 71 yards and one TD. Sermon opted to transfer to Ohio State in 2020, running 116 times for 870 yards and four TDs and catching 12 passes for 95 yards in eight games. He suffered an injury on the first play from scrimmage against Alabama in the national title game, ending his college career, and Sermon was forced to opt out of the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Well-proportioned back with workhorse size. Had games with 35, 32 and 26 touches. Low-mileage back for a four-year starter — just over 500 career touches.

Determined runner — breaks tackles with sheer effort. Great contact balance. Always falling forward. Consistently productive when given the chance — career averages of 6.5 yards per rush and 10.0 yards per reception. Handled both man- and zone-blocked runs well. Good mixture of power and quickness.

Very smooth athlete. Corners the edge extremely well — deceptive speed and burst to the outside that might not be reflected in testing numbers. Great lower-body flexibility — shows off loose hips and ankles to make sudden changes of direction while maintaining balance.

Clutch performer who usually saved his best for the biggest stages. Had huge effort and scored go-ahead TD late against rival Oklahoma State as a sophomore. Dominated two good defenses late in 2020: Northwestern in the Big Ten title game (29 rushes, 331 yards, two TDs) and Clemson in the playoff semifinals (31 carries, 193 yards, TD; four receptions, 61 yards).

Undersold third-down ability. Soft hands as a receiver — should have been deployed more in this department. Reliable in pass protection (after a few hiccups early last season while learning different protection schemes). Zero fumbles over his final 394 college touches. Gets after it as a blocker. Has overcome personal tragedy and difficult circumstances to thrive.

Downside: Not a special athlete. Could have middle-of-the-road testing numbers. Long speed isn’t anything great — requires time and room to build up to max mph.

Notable injury history — suffered a fracture in his back (lumbar vertebra) during his junior year of high school, suffered an LCL injury his junior year at OU and suffered a shoulder injury in his final game at OSU. Running style and lack of elite athleticism made him a contact magnet. Medical evaluation will carry more weight in his evaluation than it will for other prospects.

A bit upright as a runner. Vision is a question mark — will miss cutback opportunities and head into harm’s way. Requires more patience, and is best when lanes are clean — not the most creative runner out there.

Underused in the passing game — targeted only 61 times in 45 career games. Not a creative or versatile receiver. Most of his yards came after the catch. Must adapt to more sophisticated pass-protection schemes and be able to spy oncoming blitzers a bit quicker.

Production comes with an asterisk — he ran behind two deep, strong offensive lines littered with NFL talent and was surrounded by skill-position studs and strong QB play. Wasn’t asked to carry the load consistently. Three fumbles in 2018 (on 176 touches).

Reportedly got in Lincoln Riley’s doghouse in 2019 — started four of the first games that season before seeing snaps and touches greatly reduced, which was unrelated to his knee injury. Took a while to adjust to OSU’s system after transferring during the pandemic. All but stopped talking to Ohio State RB coach Tony Alford early last season before they repaired the relationship.

Ohio State RB Trey Sermon was dominant in the Big Ten championship game. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Ohio State RB Trey Sermon was dominant in the Big Ten championship game. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Best-suited destination: Sermon has three-down potential for the right team, perhaps as an inside-outside zone runner, but likely will have his best success working up to that role, first as a change-up runner. He has the skill to thrive as a lead back but will need an expansion of his third-down repertoire and could need some time adjusting to professional life.

Did you know: Sermon’s mother, Natoshia Mitchell, wrote a book in 2012 titled “When My Soul Cried,” which detailed some harrowing details of her life. It included both of her brothers dying, including one who was shot seven times, along with the unexpected deaths of both her parents. It also included the death of her son at the hands of the baby’s father, who is now serving a life sentence in prison.

Mitchell wouldn’t let that bring her down, however, as she raised two other children. She has earned bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and is close to finishing her doctorate in psychology. Mitchell started a nonprofit called Arise by Faith, which helps treat domestic violence survivors and plans to open another clinic to help support women in abusive relationships.

Sermon has tattoos on each of his biceps — they read “Trust” on his right arm and “God” on his left arm.

Player comp: Sermon has a somewhat similar style to Joe Mixon and JK Dobbins, albeit with less athletic skill than either.

Expected draft range: Rounds 3 to 5

59. Pitt EDGE Rashad Weaver

6-foot-4, 265 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.83 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Long, strong and versatile defensive lineman who might not be an elite pass rusher but has strong football and personal character

Games watched: Clemson (2018), Louisville (2020), North Carolina State (2020), Notre Dame (2020)

The skinny: A 2-star Rivals recruit out of the Miami area, Weaver headed to Pitt and redshirted in 2016. In 2017, he started 5 of 12 games and made 28 tackles (six for losses) with three sacks and three pass breakups. Weaver was even stronger in 2018, making 47 tackles (14 for losses), 6.5 sacks, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

Weaver’s 2019 season ended before it started when he suffered an ACL injury during preseason practice. But after a year of rehab, he bounced back by being named first-team AP All-America and all-ACC honors, making 35 tackles (14.5 for loss), 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He attended the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Turned in productive 2020 season following torn ACL in 2019. Will be another year removed from the injury and should be in even better shape in 2021.

Outstanding production in his nine-game campaign and throughout his career — 34.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, nine passes batted down, five forced fumbles and four recoveries. Disruptive player who finds his way to the ball. Lived in backfields last season — multiple pressures/hits/sacks in every game in 2020.

Good Senior Bowl week — looked strong and determined in both one-on-ones and team sessions. Also stood out in the game, having to play inside because of a lack of DTs on the roster.

Ideal size and length. Big, thick, stout frame capable of handling the wear of a long season. Great upper-body strength — powerful hands to pop defenders and stop their momentum. Plays a power game. Outstanding wingspan (82 7/8 inches) to long-arm blockers and keep their hands away from his frame.

Pitt's Rashad Weaver stood tall at the 2021 Senior Bowl. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Pitt's Rashad Weaver stood tall at the 2021 Senior Bowl. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)

Stout run defender who will upgrade a defense in this respect immediately. Initiates contact and sets the course. Sheds blocks and sets a hard edge — forces runners back inside or takes them down himself. Controls the action up front and can work through tandem blocks to make plays.

Effort rusher who finishes. Disengages quickly and can cover short distances quickly. Flattens down the line and makes TFLs consistently. Has countermove potential — flashed more of it in 2020. Won’t be bullied at the point of attack. Good inside rush moves.

High-floor prospect — hard to picture him being a bust with good health. Technically sound. Highly respected personal and football character. A worker who will set the tone for his DL room and be pro-ready the minute he walks into a facility.

Downside: Not a dynamic athlete. Doesn’t explode off the ball. Struggles to change directions somewhat. Can’t counter back inside with elite quickness.

Edge-rush speed in the NFL will read as average to slightly below-average. Not a bender who carves the corner. Can be deliberate in his pass-rush moves and has trouble stringing moves together. Not often beaten badly in one-on-one battles but also earns a lot of stalemates.

Tall player who plays tall — needs to get his pad level down. Can be vulnerable to “half a man” blocks and lose power at the point. Plays with a narrow base. Straightforward pass rusher who could use more development in terms of angles and coordination between his lower and upper halves.

Won’t have quite as much value as a possible 5-technique with fewer teams using true 3-4 fronts. Average arm length (33 1/4 inches) and hand size (9 3/4 inches). Still not as sure a wrap-up tackler as you’d like to see, although appeared improved in this area last season.

Older prospect — will turn 24 years old in November. Could be closer to his peak in terms of development. Health (torn ACL in 2019) must be closely examined.

Best-suited destination: Weaver reads as a three-down defensive lineman capable of lining up inside and out. He might never lead your team in sacks, but he’s a player you absolutely can build around who is capable of helping your run and pass defenses in either an odd or an even front. Weaver should have mass appeal for his versatility and high floor.

Did you know: Weaver was one of only two football players to be named a member of Pitt’s Blue and Gold Society, which is an undergraduate student organization composed of top students who serve as ambassadors for the alumni association and the university.

Player comp: Some similarities to Brandon Graham.

Expected draft range: Top 100 pick

58. Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth

6-foot-5, 258 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.83 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Not quite a next-gen tight end, lacking elite athletic traits, but Freiermuth has good blocking and receiving potential to be a very solid NFL tight end

Games watched: Michigan State (2020), Indiana (2020), Ohio State (2020), Nebraska (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 148 nationally), Freiermuth started nine of 19 games as a true freshman in 2018. That season he caught 26 passes for 368 yards and eight scores, earning honorable mention all-Big Ten and Freshman All-American honors. In 2019, Freiermuth caught 43 passes for 507 yards and seven scores and was named Penn State’s Most Valuable Offensive Player and second-team all-Big Ten. In 2020, Freiermuth caught 23 passes for 310 yards and one TD in four games, being named first-team All-Big Ten (coaches). He suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season early and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Ideal NFL tight end frame. Long arms, good build and great length. Well-proportioned athlete with good lower-body power. Carries his nearly 260 pounds very well. Moves well for that size.

Focal point of Penn State offense that often was limited in the passing game. School-record for touchdowns by a tight ends with 16 in 30 career games — effective red-zone weapon who can be a mismatch piece on jump balls. Saw nearly 30 percent of passing targets when healthy in 2020.

Strong ball skills. High-points the ball well and displays nice body control in the air, on the sideline and over the middle. Can adjust to off-target throws readily — and can do so without gearing down too much.

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth could be a second-round pick. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth could be a second-round pick. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Quality route runner who creates separation. Gets into his routes with suddenness — pretty good foot quickness. Builds up to good speed vertically. Major threat down the seam. Prep basketball player who can post up safeties.

Good in-line blocking potential. Ingredients are all there to become a very reliable and effective run blocker. Showed some real finishing ability and strong effort on certain plays.

Excellent tackle breaker who powers his way through contact — you need to bring population to bring him down after the catch. Fearless over the middle — took some big shots and typically held onto the ball in traffic. Great stiff arm after the catch. Loves to bully would-be-tacklers.

Two-year team captain. Lined up wide, in-line and in the slot. Fairly well-rounded player. Well-liked by teammates for his energy, effort and competitiveness. Self-confident player.

Downside: Nice athlete but lacking elite traits. Runs well but lacks a true extra gear. Not really that sudden overall. Not the kind of explosive combine tester as former Nittany Lions TE Mike Gesicki was.

Most of his big receptions come after smaller tacklers bounce off him. One career reception longer than 28 yards — a 74-yarder on a defensive bust by Nebraska (and he was caught at the 1-yard line). Can’t stack vertically all that consistently.

Won’t separate vertically against DBs and not as effective shaking man coverage. Short-area separation is just OK. Quiet the past two years against Ohio State — covered often by a linebacker (Pete Werner) and held in check.

Blocking isn’t a finished product. Some technical errors, including lunging and getting out too far over his skis. Too aggressive at times. Doesn’t sustain enough and doesn’t block defenders off the screen. Will reach and succumb to countermoves as a pass blocker. More effective at this stage in run blocking.

Concentration drops were aplenty as a freshman — still can do a better job of catching balls more cleanly with his hands and looking the ball all the way in. Wasn’t as effective plucking low balls off the turf.

Can do a better job using his force getting off the line and battling before the grab. Didn’t make the first man miss as much last season.

Turns 23 years old as a rookie. Shoulder injury will require further medical scrutiny.

Best-suited destination: Freiermuth has all the earmarks of a starting “Y” tight end who can impact the game as both a receiver and blocker. He might not be a truly special player in any way, but he should be highly sought as a dependable third or fourth receiving option and a 60-snap performer who can take an offense up a notch.

Did you know: Freiermuth grew up in New England and has heard the “Baby Gronk” nickname once or twice before. He’s also trained with former Patriots safety Obi Melifonwu.

As a sophomore in high school, Freiermuth had to be moved from tight end to quarterback after the starter got hurt. He threw 13 interceptions in 11 games and said he didn’t like playing QB. Luckily, he moved back to tight end (and linebacker on defense) to finish out his prep career. As a senior, he caught seven TD passes, rushed for five scores and also tallied three defensive touchdowns.

Player comp: Tyler Eifert

Expected draft range: Second round, perhaps in the top 50 overall

57. Ohio State LB Baron Browning

6-foot-3, 241 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.84 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: All-Traits Team member who finally started fulfilling his massive potential in breakout senior season

Games watched: Clemson (2019), Indiana (2020), Penn State (2020), Alabama (2020)

The skinny: A 5-star Rivals recruit (No. 9 nationally), Browning left the state of Texas to sign with the Buckeyes. As a sophomore In 2018, he had 23 tackles (3.5 for loss) and one sack while starting three of 12 games. Browning only started one game in 2019, but he had 43 tackles (10 for losses), five sacks and one pass breakup in 12 games. As a senior, Browning shifted from inside linebacker to the outside, starting five of seven games and making 30 tackles (three for losses), one sack, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries for the national runners-up. Browning earned third-team All-Big Ten honors and played in the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Ideal physical specimen for a modern linebacker with great size-speed combination. Good length and athletic twitch. Tremendous wingspan (81 inches), good arm length (33 inches) and huge hands (10 inches). Chiseled physique and well-proportioned. Strong frame and plays big — uses his length to stack and shed well, especially against tight ends and athletic tackles.

Fluid athlete who can run — impressive burst. Fast closer who can come from off the screen to make a play. Does good job of stringing out plays wide and not letting ballcarriers turn the corner. Played faster as a college senior.

Very effective blitzer. WIll run through blocks or shimmy past them. Good finishing ability — see his sack against Alabama’s Mac Jones in the national title game. Hitter who brings a thump.

Great third-down ability. Was asked to rush, cover in the slot (or even outside) over his four years. Covered Indiana’s 180-pound slot WR Whop Philyor and Penn State’s 258-pound TE Pat Freiermuth. Here’s Browning knocking away a ball in a red-zone rep against Freiermuth:

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Good positional versatility. Improved tackler as senior — displayed better technique and was more reliable after early-career issues.

Plays with intensity and effort. Just starting to hit his peak, with instincts catching up to the traits.

Downside: Late bloomer. Wasn’t a full-time starter until shortened 2020 season. Had responsibilities streamlined prior to breakout year. Struggled to find his footing and carve out a defined role amidst a talented LB group earlier in his career.

Often looked hesitant and even a bit lost his first few years. Didn’t trust his eyes to diagnose what was happening in front of him. Anticipation skills still lagging — in the process of learning how to read his keys and get a jump on plays.

Can do better taking on blocks in the run game. Does’t play the angles in his favor. Can hit high and whiff. You’d like to see him play through the ball a bit better, although that was improved as a senior.

Coverage skills likely limited to tight ends and H-backs. A little clunky flipping his hips and transitioning. Better dropping into short zone coverage. Zero career interceptions and only three pass breakups — ball skills not yet refined.

Still currently a better athlete than complete football player. Some development is required to coax out all of his natural ability. Hasn’t played extensively on special teams since his sophomore year.

Best-suited destination: With his size and athletic skill, Browning figures to be either an outside or inside linebacker in a 3-4 system or an outside ‘backer in even fronts. He has good rush potential, and the ability to impact special-teams units in coverage and return units.

By Year 2 or 3, you might really have something special. But there's little doubt he's a boom-or-bust prospect who has ample work to do to get better.

Did you know: His father, Barry, was a hard-hitting DB at TCU in the 1990s, and his brother, Barry Jr., played cornerback at Stanford from 2010 to 2013.

Player comp: Zach Cunningham

Expected draft range: Round 3

56. Oregon S Jevon Holland

6-foot-1, 195 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.85 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Talented safety with terrific nose for the ball who opted out in 2020 after great sophomore season

Games watched: Auburn (2019), Cal (2019), Nevada (2019), Wisconsin (2019)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit, Holland intercepted five passes (tied for 10th in FBS) as a freshman, made 44 tackles and defended 11 passes in 13 games (two starts). In 2019, Holland had 66 tackles (4.5 for losses), four interceptions (one pick-six), and eight passes defended and returned 16 punts for 244 yards (15.5-yard average). He opted out of the 2020 season and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Outstanding production as freshman and sophomore — nine picks and 19 PBUs in 27 games. Terrific ball skills — locates the ball beautifully and gets in good body position to make a play. Prep experience at wide receiver with soft hands.

Good height and length to play multiple spots in a secondary. High-cut physique. Great body control and burst. Showed some real playmaking ability with the ball in his hands.

Ideal versatility to be a hybrid safety. Has played the post, can be a factor up in the box and routinely lined up in the slot against receivers, running backs and tight ends. Sources say he’s worked on his CB skills during his opt-out year and believes he can play it at the NFL level.

Smart football player despite only two years of college ball. Able to step in as a big contributor right away as a true freshman . Handled a variety of roles and rarely looked out of place. Deft in multiple coverages and alignments. Assignment-sound football player who earned the staff’s trust quickly.

Able to process well from multiple levels of the field — plays with his head and eyes up and looks through his man to the ball. Closes quickly, especially as an overhang/curl defender and patrolling the middle of the field.

This was a terrific play by Holland in his final college game against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Watch as Holland slips the block attempt by Garrett Groshek on the reverse and take the ball carrier down for a loss:

Jevon Holland does a great job of not falling for the misdirection and making the tackle for loss.
Jevon Holland does a great job of not falling for the misdirection and making the tackle for loss.

Great run-defending instincts and effort. Physical for his size — comes crashing down to send a message at the point of impact. Has some blitzing potential to invest in — looked comfortable the more he did it by the end of his sophomore season. Manned special-teams units for more than a dozen snaps a game despite playing defense extensively.

Downside: Bit of a narrow, leaner frame — might not be able to survive full time in the box. Needs to be well-shielded to play up tight. Had a few of his blitzed stoned by blocking tight ends and linemen.

Athletic skills good but hardly elite — some questions about his long speed in coverage (although he appeared quite fast on the 81-yard punt return vs. Auburn).

Inexperienced — not quite two full years of starting experience (1,500 snaps). Opted out of the 2020 season, leaving scouts to wonder how much momentum he missed out on in his development. Still showed some greenness in coverage his first two seasons — guilty of guessing and freelancing at times. A bit of a gambler who needs to know when to hold and when to fold.

Tackling needs continued work — 18 missed tackles charted by PFF in 27 career games. Can overrun plays, make arm-tackle attempts and take suspect angles to the ball the longer the distance he must travel.

Slot-coverage skills might not be finely tuned enough vs. quicker and faster slot receivers and well-built backs and tight ends. Can give too big a cushion and lose ground at the break point in man coverage. Has let receivers get behind him a bit too often.

Best-suited destination: Holland profiles as a do-it-all safety — perhaps in the “big nickel” role that has become the soup du jour in the NFL. He has the ability to carry tight ends down the seam, spy athletic quarterbacks, cover the slot, play the flat/curl area in zone and also man the deep halves at safety. There’s some wonder if he’s more of a jack of all trades and master of none.

Did you know: His father, John “Robert” Holland, was on the roster of the San Francisco 49ers but made his mark as a defensive back in the Canadian Football League and NFL Europe. He won a Grey Cup with the Edmonton Eskimos in 1993, and later played with the B.C. Lions.

The Hollands stayed in British Columbia, where Jevon was born, before the family moved to California. Jevon played in high school for former NFL running back Napoleon Kaufman.

Player comp: There are a lot of similarities to Justin Simmons, even though that’s admittedly a big comp.

Expected draft range: Round 2

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