The UNI Panthers produced a Day 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in Spencer Brown. Is there another Northern Iowa OT with an NFL Draft scouting report worthy of early-round hype in Trevor Penning? Penning is already far along the path that Brown followed in the winter of 2021, and it’s looking like he will be selected even earlier. Why is there so much hype around Penning, and does he live up to it?
Trevor Penning NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Northern Iowa
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’7 1/8″
- Weight: 325 pounds
- Wingspan: 83 5/8″
- Length: 34 3/4″
- Hand: 10 1/4″
Penning’s Combine/pro day results
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.89
- Bench Press: 28
- Broad Jump: 9’3″
- Vertical Jump: 28″
- Three-Cone: 7.25
- Short Shuttle: 4.62
Trevor Penning Scouting Report
When you think of offensive tackle factories, the Northern Iowa Panthers probably aren’t the first football program on the list. But when it’s all said and done in the 2022 NFL Draft, UNI might end up producing more early-round offensive tackles over the past two drafts than programs like Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia, and Oklahoma combined.
The crowning talent behind this accomplishment may ultimately be Penning. Penning is a monstrous behemoth at 6’7″, 325 pounds, and on the field, he’s exactly as imposing as you’d expect. A dominant FCS competitor who’s flashed brightly against Power Five talent, Penning has the tools to ascend. But what makes his game so exciting?
Penning’s athletic profile
Let’s start with the numbers. It bears repeating that Penning is 6’7″, 325 pounds. He has an extremely well-proportioned frame with excellent density and length. That length gives Penning a wide range of impact when blocking in motion. With his smooth, long strides, he can cover a surprising amount of ground in space. Meanwhile, with his size, he has the capacity to lower his pad level, and he also has decent knee bend.
Furthermore, Penning is a great athlete. At the 2022 NFL Combine, he logged a 4.89 40-yard dash, a 28″ vertical, and a 111″ broad. He earned a Relative Athletic Score of 9.96, holds the program squat record at 625 pounds, and power cleans 385 pounds. That athleticism and strength clearly show up on tape.
Penning is a powerful blocker who dominates lighter defenders at the point of attack. He has great upper-body torque and a ton of stored potential energy within his frame. The Northern Iowa OT brings good straight-line burst when moving to the second level, and he’s exceptionally explosive out of his stance. When matching rushers along the edge, Penning is a fairly efficient mover. He’s shown he can flip his hips to match defenders around the edge and wall off the pocket with his frame.
On top of Penning’s athletic traits, he’s also extremely strong. That’s evidenced not only by his weight room numbers but also by his on-field play. Penning has imposing grip strength. He can latch onto players and wrestle them into submission.
Execution beyond the athletic traits
Like Brown before him, Penning is a high-level athletic talent. While he might not be as purely athletic as Brown (that’s a high bar to clear), he may be more physically imposing on Day 1 on account of the violence with which he uses his traits.
One of the first things that stand out with Penning is his hands. The Northern Iowa OT has fast, violent hands, and he’s shown he can target his opponents’ arms to negate rushes. He’s flashed the ability to stack counters in pass protection, and his hands have decent synergy. He establishes an anchor while inflicting heavy lateral force.
Penning’s hands are only made more dangerous by the mentality that comes with them. He is an absolute mauler. If he gets leverage, he’s going to try to put you in the dirt. It’s as simple as that. The UNI product craves opportunities to dominate his opponents. Penning has an aggressive help mentality when unoccupied in pass protection, and he knows how to transfer his weight to take advantage of unbalanced opponents. He also finishes every rep.
While he can be more consistent here, he has flashed decent patience and synergy in pass protection. The Northern Iowa OT can wait until rushers enter his range before extending.
Areas for improvement
Penning is an extremely fun player with legitimate starting upside at multiple positions. Having said this, the Northern Iowa OT could clean up a few things as he trends toward the NFL. There are several inconsistencies on Penning’s tape, but his balance is one of the more notable qualms.
Penning’s base isn’t always steady when anchored. He can lose his balance against longer opponents. He also fails to maintain his balance through offensive maneuvers at times. This can impact his ability to sustain blocks at the second level. Moreover, he can work to better counteract force with his feet. His feet sometimes stop moving, and once that happens, he can easily be worked around or worked into with power.
As good as Penning’s center of gravity is, he does play a bit lopsided at times. His extension timing could be better, and Penning also plays too tall too often. While he has decent knee bend capacity, he sometimes bends at the waist and struggles to attain proper leverage. Rushers can easily get under him and force him to lurch.
Going further, Penning can absorb power, but he doesn’t always sustain blocks when he can’t make first contact. Penning’s grip strength — while solid — can be broken with forceful moves, and he keeps his hands too wide, opening up his torso. Additionally, there is some stiffness present when he needs to recover laterally. His feet are a bit heavy at times, although he generally moves well.
Among other notes, Penning’s hand precision still has some room for improvement, and his hands and feet can have better synergy. Penning can be grabby and penalty-prone when he loses leverage, and he sometimes goes too far with his nasty attitude after the snap.
Penning’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
There are some areas where Penning can further refine his game. Nevertheless, both athletically and operationally, there are some things to be excited about. While Penning isn’t as athletic as his former teammate Brown, he’s still a great athlete. Penning’s short-range explosiveness allows him to get in position quickly, and he has enough lateral mobility to match rushers around the edge.
On top of his athleticism, Penning has a massive, well-proportioned frame with elite length. His hands can be violent, and he’s a mean, nasty mauler who might be one of the most aggressive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft. He still has a lot to clean up, but scouts will be enamored by the upside and the aggressive mentality with Penning. In fact, late in 2021, PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline reported that some scouts already had Penning rated as the top tackle in the class.
It’s easy to fall in love with Penning’s upside and aggression. Although there’s a lot to work with, his standing as arguably the top tackle might be a little rich. Beyond his nasty attitude and strength, Penning has a lot to clean up. Technical flaws like high pad level, inconsistent feet, and open hands could be easily exploited at the NFL level. His modest lateral stiffness also bears noting. Penning could move inside to guard, where his physicality would be maximized. But his high pad level would hurt there, too.
Regardless, Penning is in the first-round conversation, and it looks like he’ll ultimately be taken early on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. With his aggression and physical upside, one could argue he’s worth it. He’s far from a sure thing, but he can be a dominant blocker who sets the tone.
Penning’s Player Profile
The Northern Iowa recruiting staff has proven itself adept at finding offensive line talent to mold. Brown was a long, underweight tight end before he added mass and became a bookend blocker. The same was true for Penning, who was a lanky 6’6″, 235-pound two-way player coming out of Newman Catholic High School in Mason City, Iowa.
Penning played defensive end and tight end for his high school team, but the Panthers recruited him as a project instead. They brought Penning in as a moldable talent, and years later, he’d emerge as one of the most dominant offensive tackles at the FCS level.
Penning’s career at Northern Iowa
Penning redshirted the 2017 season at Northern Iowa while preparing to make a transition to the offensive line. He put on weight, and by 2018, he weighed 289 pounds, nearing the 300-pound mark.
Penning started to gain experience in 2018, playing in four games as a blocker. But his first true starting experience would come in 2019. That year, the Northern Iowa OT started all 15 games. He rose through the ranks with Brown and ended up starting opposite of him at left tackle. That duo of size and athleticism became kryptonite for pass rushers far and wide.
In a truncated spring 2021 season, Penning got more valuable experience. He started six games, including one at right tackle, flashing positional versatility. The fall 2021 season was the most important showcase for Penning, however. Unsurprisingly, he crushed it.
Penning started all 12 games and earned consensus first-team All-Conference recognition. He was also the only offensive lineman to be honored as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award — given to the top offensive player at the FCS level.
Penning’s NFL Draft ascension
Penning isn’t as athletic as Brown, but that shouldn’t be used to diminish his own athleticism. Brown literally tested as the most athletic tackle in recorded history, and Penning is no slouch there. Videos show him windmill dunking at 6’7″ and well over 300 pounds. He’s got the goods and the road-grading mentality as well.
With his complete blend of size, length, athleticism, and power, Penning has a great foundation to build upon. Add in his tenacious mauler mentality, and it’s not brash to say that Penning could surpass Brown and maybe even challenge for a Round 1 spot, especially after his Senior Bowl showing.
It’s important to note, however, that Penning’s Senior Bowl showing was a microcosm of the opinion surrounding his NFL Draft stock. He won onlookers over with his nasty attitude and mean streak. But that mean streak turned attention away from some very real technical flaws that need to be addressed. He certainly has the upside to be a high-level starter — upside that makes him worthy of early-Round 1 consideration –, but it might take longer than people think for him to get to that point.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Trevor Penning
Positives: Massive, nasty offensive tackle who has been sprinting up draft boards. Quick off the snap, explosive and gets after blocks. Annihilates opponents once engaged at the point and displays terrific power. Easily controls opponents and gets movement run blocking. Works to bend his knees and stays square. Smart as well as intense. Displays outstanding vision, works hard to get a pad on opponents and buries defenders as a run blocker. Keeps his head on a swivel and works well with linemates.
Negatives: Heavy-footed and lumbers around the field despite the athleticism he displayed at the Combine. Occasionally bends at the waist. Lacks quick and natural footwork off the edge.
Analysis: Penning is a tough offensive tackle prospect with the size and makeup to line up on the right side at the next level. He must polish his game and consistently play under control, yet Penning possesses the ability to quickly start on Sundays.