Most of the offensive linemen who played at Oregon alongside Detroit Lions draft pick Penei Sewell were older and more experienced. However, when the doors closed in the OL room it was Sewell who commanded everybody’s attention and respect.
“He was a different dog,” said George Moore, who will replace Sewell at left tackle for the Ducks.
Sewell was the seventh pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and the first player taken by the new regime led by General Manager Brad Holmes and Coach Dan Campbell. At some point Sewell, the expectation is for Sewell to be leader of the pack for the Lions. It is not his moment to shine quite yet. Veteran Taylor Decker will play the more coveted left tackle and protect quarterback Jared Goff’s blind side.
The assumption is for Sewell to slide into the starting right tackle spot, a position he worked diligently to learn during an intense six month training session at Proactive Sports Performance in Westlake Village, Ca. Penei Sewell became the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy as college football’s best offensive lineman.
The downside is he played just 21 games in college because of a high ankle sprain sustained midway through his freshman year. He also opted out of playing in 2020. So there is some rust to shake off. At least three NFL scouts panned the pick, saying Sewell is more mauler than brawler. He simply over powered smaller and weaker defensive ends in the defense voided Pac-12.
“I believe there will be a lot of disappointment,” one scout said. “I don’t buy that he’s a great one. The upside with him is better than the upside with the rest (of the offensive tackles). There is a floor with him that’s concerning.”
Still, the Lions offensive line is a strength that other teams must be concerned with. Frank Ragnow is an All Pro center and first round pick. Decker is the third first-rounder starting for the Lions.
“Where ever they put me, I’m going to play, and I’m going to give it my all,” Sewell said in a conference call.
“To join a room like this is a blessing. To be a young dude and to come into such a veteran group with so many years (of experience), it’s just easier for me to approach the game because I can go to them for advice and soak up as much knowledge as possible. Being a sponge around those guys will help out tremendously.”
Sewell wants to connect with friend and fellow Lions lineman Tyrell Crosby, who played at Oregon, and learn the Detroit area. We heard terms like “future Hall of Famer”, “Pro Bowler” and brawler during the evening of flash analysts. Even Lions fans were ecstatic over the choice. But there were some who panned the selection.
One pro football site interviewed three anonymous front office executives who believe the term “overrated” fits Sewell.
“Every time I circle back and watch him I just don’t see it,” an unnamed scout said of Sewell. “He’s not that gifted with his feet. He doesn’t really play that physical or that strong. He can get in the way, but he’s not a really good finisher, and his balance is not that great. His technique is off. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”
He is more mauler than brawler. However, the idea is to pave a path way for runners whether you pan cake them or shove them out the way. Some sacked Sewell for being immature. However, he is 20 years old and a bit of a goofball.
“A bit overrated.” Another scout said. “He is naturally thick, big-framed tackle. I didn’t think he was super explosive. He covered people up with his size and he would gouge somebody just because he was bigger than them. And name one pass rusher he actually played against in the Pac-12 who’s on the draft board.”
Point well taken.
There were no top 15 defensive ends on most draft boards from the Pac-12. Sewell did over power smaller men. That won’t be the case in the NFL where most defensive linemen are big and ferocious. His stiffest competition may have come from younger brother, Noah, a five-star recruit who was the fifth highest recruit in Ducks history. Noah, an inside linebacker, and Penei had some grueling battles in their Utah backyard before moving to Oregon.
Still Penei Sewell put up impressive statistics. He led the nation with a run blocking grade of 95.3 his sophomore season and his 91.1 pass block grade ranked third.