The San Francisco 49ers have one of the 2021 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year betting favorites at William Hill Sportsbook in quarterback and No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance, who is +650. However, the stock of another Niners offense rookie named Trey is skyrocketing due to an injury to Jeff Wilson, and that's running back Trey Sermon. He could now be great value at +4000 on the moneyline to win OROY and a sneaky-good Fantasy Football mid-round selection.
Wilson this week underwent surgery for a torn meniscus – not clear when the injury was suffered -- and will miss 4-6 months, meaning the start of the regular season at a minimum. Wilson, who was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, led San Francisco with 10 total touchdowns in 2020. He rushed 126 times for 600 yards and seven scores and caught 13 passes for 133 yards and three scores.
Entering last season, Wilson certainly wasn't projected to lead the team in carries but No. 1 running back Raheem Mostert, a 2019 breakout star, was limited to eight games due to injury -- and injuries have been a problem in Mostert's career.
The Niners did sign former Giants running back Wayne Gallman this offseason and also selected Elijah Mitchell in the sixth round of the 2021 draft out of Louisiana, but Sermon, a third-round pick out of Ohio State, seems likely to benefit the most from Wilson's injury.
San Francisco traded two fourth-round picks to the NFC West-rival Rams during the draft to move up to No. 88 overall and pick Sermon. Last season at Ohio State, he rushed 116 times for 870 yards – a whopping 7.5 yards per carry -- and four touchdowns.
The Oklahoma transfer blew up at the end of the 2020 season with a school-record 331 yards rushing and two scores in the Big Ten title game win over Northwestern. In the College Football Playoff semifinal upset of Clemson, Sermon had 193 yards rushing and a TD on 31 carries. Alas, he was hurt after just one carry in the national title game loss to Alabama. Overall, Sermon broke 24 tackles and averaged 3.64 yards after first contact last season.
"I'm a huge fan of Trey, just watching him in the playoffs and the Big Ten Championship Game," Niners tight end George Kittle told reporters Tuesday at OTAs. "He's such an aggressive runner. He's a big body. He just likes to run through people, but he still has a finesse to his game, which is awesome to see. He's a fast guy that runs downhill, and I love that in this offense."
Perhaps the one thing working against Sermon winning Offensive Rookie of the Year – other than that quarterbacks often win it – is that the Niners always use multiple backs under Kyle Shanahan. Plus, Sermon isn't known as a good receiver out of the backfield. However, if Mostert goes down injured, look out.
The 49ers have never had an Offensive Rookie of the Year winner, which is shocking. In 1985, Jerry Rice's rookie season, Bengals wideout Eddie Brown was the winner. San Francisco opens Sept. 12 at Detroit as an early 7.5-point favorite on the NFL odds.
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