The 2021 NFL draft will provide the league with a big boost in offensive tackle talent, and Oregon’s Penei Sewell is widely considered the best of the bunch in this year’s class. The talented junior opted-out of the 2020 season but the impression he left in the Pac-12 in 2019 was enough to earn him high marks across the scouting industry.
Sewell’s time at Oregon began after a successful four-star high school career at Desert Hills High School in St. George, Utah. He was ranked the top recruit in the state of Utah and a top 75 overall player by Rivals and 247Sports. Sewell received scholarship offers from 27 schools including Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame, to name a few.
It didn’t take long for Sewell to establish himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He started seven games for Oregon as a true freshman (missed six games with an injury) and was selected to the USA Today Freshman All-American Team in 2018. He was downright dominant in 2019, starting 13 of 14 games at left tackle. He was the first player in Oregon school history to win the Outland Trophy (awarded to the nation’s best offensive lineman) and finished 2019 with Pro Football Focus’ highest run-blocking grade in the country. He was PFF’s Pac-12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American.
Physically, Sewell checks-in at 6-5, 325 pounds, which is actually surprising. He doesn’t look that big on film which is a credit to his effortless movement skills. He carries his weight exceptionally well and is an evenly distributed 325-pounder. He possesses adequate length for an NFL offensive tackle prospect and is incredibly strong at the point of attack.
Athletically, Sewell has no peers along the offensive line in the 2021 draft. He explodes out of his stance and can reach the second level in a flash. He’s incredibly coordinately in space and hunts linebackers like a true predator. His feet are light and nimble and his hips are loose. He’s freakishly athletic.
In pass protection, Sewell is quick into his pass set and has the high-end footwork required to cut off speed rushers while also reacting well to inside counter moves. His hands are strong and his punch is a neutralizing weapon. He needs to improve on sustaining his blocks through the rep, though, as he often tries to win on first contact instead of through the duration of the rep. His relative inexperience (only 20 starts) shows in this area of his game.
As a run blocker, Sewell is a devastating power player who will be a lot of fun to watch In the league. He reminds me of Quenton Nelson with how much power he generates at the point of attack. He’ll be successful in any running scheme because of how blessed he is from a power-athletic ability combination. He can step and seal, he can pull down the line of scrimmage, and he can flat out knock his opponent out of a phone booth. Whatever his offensive line coach and offensive coordinator want him to do on the next level, he’ll be able to execute.
Overall, it’s easy to fall in love with Sewell’s game. His power plays — when he decleats defenders — are intoxicating. His ability to dart to the second level and beyond is rare for a guy as big as he is. But he isn’t perfect, and there will be some early-career bumps for him as he develops as a more technically refined pro (especially in pass protection). Remember: Sewell doesn’t turn 21 until October. He’s still a puppy. The best is yet to come, and that’s a scary thought.
GRADE: 8.9 (first round)