NFL News & Analysis

Injuries in 49ers backfield bring Trey Sermon into a starting role

Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Trey Sermon (28) carries the ball as Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Riley Cole (46) attempts a tackle during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers’ backfield has been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks, but we have a pretty good idea of which running backs will be active Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

49ers Week 2 starter Elijah Mitchell is doubtful with a shoulder injury and seems unlikely to play, though he has been pushing to be active on Sunday.

JaMycal Hasty (high ankle sprain) is out and has been placed on injured reserve.

That leaves San Francisco with Trey Sermon, who practiced in full Friday after being limited earlier in the week with a concussion, Trenton Cannon and Jacques Patrick as healthy RBs on the 53-man roster. The 49ers have also elevated Kerryon Johnson from the practice squad.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said Sermon, a 2021 third-round pick, looked “great” in practice this week. The rookie was a healthy scratch in Week 1 and worked behind Mitchell last Sunday.

The Packers will likely be without fill-in left tackle Elgton Jenkins, who’s doubtful with a shoulder injury. 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa could have a big game against Packers offensive tackles Dennis Kelly and Billy Turner.

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Sermon's time: Sermon went from being inactive in Week 1 to potentially seeing the majority of carries in the 49ers backfield in Week 3. No offensive system has an easier plug-and-play running back approach than San Francisco. Although it doesn't really move the needle from a spread or total perspective, it is worthwhile information when betting player props. Click here for PFF's NFL betting dashboard

Deebo's rushing upside: One of PFF's favorite Sunday Night player props is Deebo Samuel to go over 5.5 rushing yards, as he could easily see one or two carries with the barren 49ers backfield that will be available Sunday night. Click here for PFF's player prop tool.


Sermon is a must-start at RB2: Sermon should be started as a RB2 across all formats. He's in line to see a solid workload and should be set for success versus a poor Packers run defense. Click here to find PFF's 2021 fantasy projections.

Good opportunity for Sermon to produce: The rookie running back sees the 11th-best matchup among RBs this week, per PFF's strength of schedule (SOS) tool. Combine that with Kyle Shanahan's ability to scheme up open running lanes, and it wouldn't be surprising if Sermon performed above expectation this week. Click here for PFF's SOS tool.


Different Form of Runner: Sermon may not have the speed of the Niners original RB1 Raheem Mostert, but he possesses the vision, balance and short-area burst to be a quality performer in this zone offense. Even though he only has one snap as a rookie, Sermon posted an impressive 86.1 overall grade in college. Click here to find PFF's NFL player grades.

Break Tackle Upside: Sermon broke 0.32 tackles per attempt in his four-year college career with Oklahoma and Ohio State, which tied for fifth in the FBS over that span. Sermon is capable of putting up numbers in this favorable system and making this injury-riddled backfield a non-issue. Click here to find PFF's NFL premium stats.

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