The UNI Panthers produced a Day 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in Spencer Brown. Is there another Northern Iowa OT with a scouting report worthy of the NFL Draft in Trevor Penning? It’s early, but Penning is already far along the path that Brown followed in the winter of 2020. Could Penning be a Day 2 pick like Brown, or perhaps transcend that boundary entirely?
Trevor Penning NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Northern Iowa
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’7″
- Weight: 340 pounds
Trevor Penning Scouting Report
When you think of offensive tackle factories, the Northern Iowa Panthers probably aren’t the first football program you think of. 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″, 340 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?
Trevor Penning’s athletic profile
Let’s start with the numbers. It bears repeating that Penning is 6’7″, 340 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, the Northern Iowa OT 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 good knee bend.
Furthermore, Penning is a great athlete. He’s listed on the Feldman’s Freaks list, and according to Bruce Feldman, Penning could run around a 5-second 40-yard dash at his size. He also has a program-record squat of 625 pounds and power cleans 385 pounds. That athleticism and strength clearly show up on tape.
Penning is a powerful blocker who can dominate 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 flips his hips to match rushers around the edge and walls off the pocket.
On top of Penning’s athletic traits, the Northern Iowa OT is 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 refined than his former counterpart was at this point last year.
One of the first things that stand out with Penning is his hands. The Northern Iowa OT has fast, violent hands, and he actively targets his opponents’ arms to negate rushes. He’s shown that he can stack counters in pass protection, and his hands have good synergy. He can establish an anchor while inflicting heavy lateral force.
Penning’s hands are only made more dangerous by the mentality that comes with them. Penning 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. He has an aggressive help mentality when unoccupied in pass protection, and he knows how to transfer his weight to take advantage of imbalanced opponents.
Although he’s proactive in superseding defenders, Penning has a good balance of patience and aggression. While he lunges at times, more often than not, he lets defenders enter his range before engaging and doesn’t often compromise his center of gravity. To that end, he’s an intelligent blocker, and he clearly understands positioning and angled leverage.
Areas for improvement
Penning is an extremely fun player with legitimate starting upside. Having said this, the Northern Iowa OT can improve a few things as he trends toward the NFL. There are several minor 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. Moreover, he can work to better counteract force with his feet.
As good as Penning’s center of gravity is, the Northern Iowa OT does play a bit lopsided at times. Another factor impacting his balance is his extension timing. Although Penning has good patience, he can still better supplement his extensions with proper positioning.
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. Additionally, he can be slightly stiff when he needs to recover laterally. His feet are a bit heavy at times, although he generally moves well.
Among other minor notes, Penning sometimes blocks upright when he isn’t in motion. His hand precision still has some room for improvement, and his hands and feet can have better synergy at times. Penning sometimes gets caught holding when he loses leverage. In addition, he can focus on bending his elbows more at times to maximize the potential energy of his punches.
Trevor 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, as well as the lateral mobility to match rushers around the edge.
On top of his athleticism, Penning has a massive, well-proportioned frame. He sports elite length and uses it fairly well. He shows great hand usage at times. And to top it all off, he’s a mean, nasty mauler who might be one of the most aggressive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft. There’s very little to suggest that he can’t be one of the first tackles taken off the board.
Competition level will be an issue for some, but Penning locked down Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV when they played earlier in September. NFL scouts no doubt took notice of that, and as PFN Chief NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline reported not long ago, some scouts already have Penning rated as the top tackle in the class.
Evan Neal is still the No. 1 for me, but Penning is in that early-round mix. Through offseason testing and the Senior Bowl, he should only keep trending up.
Trevor Penning’s Player Profile
The Northern Iowa recruiting staff has proven itself adept at finding talent to mold into offensive linemen. 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.
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 on the FCS stage.
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 reached 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 came up 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 is the most important showcase for Penning, however. And so far, he’s crushing it.
Trevor Penning’s NFL Draft ascension
Know Penning’s name if you don’t yet. The small-school tackle may not have the name recognition of other tackles, but he’s no doubt a high-level draft prospect with starting upside in the NFL.
Penning’s not 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, power, and good natural leverage for his frame, Penning has a stellar foundation to build upon. Add in his hand usage, smarts, and tenacious mauler mentality, and it’s not brash to say that Penning could surpass Brown and maybe even challenge for a Round 1 spot if everything breaks his way.
That may seem out there, but Penning is on the Senior Bowl watch list. He can inflate his stock in Mobile, and he’s going to test extremely well for his size. And his infectious, dominating attitude on the field will no doubt win over scouts across the 50 states.