Few draft prospects are good enough to be the consensus best prospect at their position. Oregon offensive tackle and 2021 NFL Draft prospect Penei Sewell might be this good. Why is Sewell such a well-respected player? Is the hype hyperbolic, or is Sewell truly the best tackle prospect in a decade? Sewell isn’t a perfect player, but he’s very deserving of his praise, and as the film confirms, he’s one of the top talents in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Penei Sewell NFL Draft Profile
Position: Offensive Tackle
Current Year: Junior
Penei Sewell is a big dude. What if I told you he was bigger in high school?
Sewell was born in the American Samoa and moved to Utah when he was 12. There, Sewell quickly involved himself in sports and played football at Desert Hills High School as an offensive guard. It didn’t take long for Sewell to prove that he was different than those around him.
Sewell starts getting noticed
By his senior season, Sewell attracted the attention of scouts across the nation. Rated as the top offensive guard prospect in the state of Utah, Sewell stood at 6-foot-6 and weighed in at a massive 349 pounds. Sewell received scholarship offers from blue chip programs like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. But at the end of his recruiting process, he chose none of them. Instead, he decided to further his football career with the Oregon Ducks.
At Oregon, Sewell would move from offensive guard to left tackle, where he’d protect the blindside of budding quarterback Justin Herbert. In that role, Sewell proved himself to be a tier above the rest of his position and catapulted him toward the 2021 NFL Draft.
Penei Sewell’s career as Oregon’s left tackle
Sewell hit the ground running once he arrived at the college football scene. As a true freshman, Sewell was a day one starter at left tackle, and he locked down that position for the better part of the 2018 season. Although Sewell missed six games due to injury, he was still named an All-Conference honorable mention by the coaches. He was also named to the freshman All-American team.
From freshman to juggernaut
By his sophomore season, Sewell trimmed over 20 pounds from his frame, and his physical refinement gave him high expectations to meet for his next campaign. Shockingly enough, Sewell went on to exceed those expectations, and confirm his status as the best offensive tackle in the NCAA.
In 2019, Sewell started 13 of 14 possible games. Sewell did not allow a single sack in those games, and in nine games, he didn’t allow a pressure or hurry. Sewell’s indomitable performance earned him national recognition. The true sophomore won the Outland Trophy, becoming the first such player to do so. He was also selected as a unanimous first-team All-American, an honor bestowed to a select few who achieve a rare level of dominance.
Sewell opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. The move was made primarily to preserve Sewell’s health and his draft stock. But after his 2019 campaign, he had nothing left to accomplish on the collegiate stage.
The roots of Penei Sewell’s dominance as a 2021 NFL Draft prospect
An offensive lineman’s purpose is two-fold. Can he keep his quarterback clean in the passing game, and can he clear space in the running game? These are the primary objectives of every lineman, and Penei Sewell executes these goals well with impressive consistency.
Sewell has excellent get-off at the line of scrimmage as a run blocker, and he carries charged momentum into his first block. Additionally, Sewell has otherworldly balance amidst contact. Some linemen take themselves out of plays if they can’t control their body, but Sewell is controlled and calculated with how he directs his frame.
Sewell operates with urgency and stores a massive amount of potential energy on each play. He exerts immense amounts of power without lurching and losing control. He also does well moving to the second level, navigating through crowds with nice acceleration and vision. Once he reaches his target, Sewell’s anchor is strong, and he has the grip strength and the composure to drive opponents out of the picture.
Sewell brings just as much as a pass blocker
Lots of Sewell’s eye-catching run blocking traits also display themselves in the passing game. Just as Sewell carries exceptional balance as a run blocker, his center of gravity is stable as a pass blocker as well. Sewell plays with stellar leverage, and his fast and powerful hands allow him to neutralize blockers on the outside.
Although Sewell isn’t necessarily an elite athlete, he has good fluidity when shuffling to match edge rushers. Additionally, he displays surprising amounts of explosiveness and balance when recovering. There are several physics-defying instances on tape where Sewell gets beat initially, then recovers with insane quickness and locks down his man again.
You can nitpick a few things with Sewell: there are times where his movement can be more efficient, his hand technique isn’t perfect, and he doesn’t always go the extra mile and maul his opponents. But the Oregon tackle certainly isn’t disinterested. He possesses ample athleticism, excellent power, innate instincts, and leverage.
He’s only 20 years old. No prospect is perfect, but as far as the hype goes, it’s true. Sewell is as good as it seems. We don’t need to overthink it.
Penei Sewell’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Does your team need a tackle? Yes? Then Penei Sewell is the NFL Draft prospect for you.
It might not be quite that simple, but Sewell’s well-rounded skill set gives him some schematic transcendence in terms of fit. He’s athletic enough to operate well in schemes that require more movement from their linemen. He also brings more than enough power to dominate on power-oriented plays. And as he continues to grow into his frame, he should only get better.
It’s about a no-brainer as you can get
You can never say never with the NFL Draft, but it’s unlikely that Sewell drops out of the top ten. In fact, most mocks have him in the top five. He’s the safest pick at offensive tackle, and he also brings a great deal of long-term upside. The Jacksonville Jaguars were recently a potential option for the Oregon tackle, but now they’re projected to have the No. 1 overall pick, which lands them Trevor Lawrence instead.
If the Jaguars remain at the top of the draft order, Sewell has other potential suitors on deck. The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers could both use Sewell to protect their young quarterbacks. The Chargers are on the outside looking in, but the idea of Sewell blocking for Justin Herbert again is enticing.
There are also some other candidates for Sewell’s services. The Panthers might be in that range, and the Jets could even entertain the idea of pairing him with Mekhi Becton, although that’s less likely. Whoever gets Sewell, they’ll be getting an immediate quality starter at left tackle, who could very well develop into a perennial All-Pro.