Detroit Lions Draft Opinion Piece - Penei Sewell
Updated: Jun 27
With the 7th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected OT Penei Sewell out of the University of Oregon.
Let's take an in-depth look into our new player:
Penei is 20 years old (born 9 Oct 2000), and hails from American Samoa originally. His family moved to Utah in 2012.
Vital Statistics (per pro-day figures, with %ile results)
Height: 6'5 (193cm) (30th)
Weight: 331 lbs (150kg) (90th)
Arm length: 33 1/4" (22nd)
Hand size: 10 3/8" (78th)
40-yard dash: 5.13s (75th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.68s
Bench reps: 30 (89th)
Broad jump: 109" (9'1, 2.77m) (77th)
Vertical jump: 28" (2'4, 71cm) (39th)
For RAS lovers, he finished with an 8.99, although offensive line is the position group where RAS is the least translatable to production in the NFL as it is more technique based than athleticism based than any other (except ST).
High School & College History
He played right tackle at Desert Hills High School primarily, although he would be moved along the line to assist the run game in whichever direction they were running. In terms of his toughness, and grit, according to Deseret.com he played his entire high school senior year with limited use of one arm after tearing shoulder cartilage.
Regarding college offers, he had 23 (per espn.com) and he visited 5 of those, including Utah, Oregon, Nevada, Alabama and USC. Not bad right?
He committed to Oregon, a decision he attributed to the family atmosphere, the area and the quality of the coaching staff and he immediately started at left tackle as a true freshman, despite the team returning 5 starters on the offensive line. He started the team's first 6 games, before suffering a high ankle sprain which sidelined him for the rest of the regular season in his freshman year. He did return for the team's bowl game and made the USA TODAY and 247Sports Freshman All-American teams.
As a sophomore, he started 13 of 14 games at left tackle for the Ducks and won the Outland Trophy for the best offensive lineman in college football. He also finished as the highest-rated sophomore player of all time in a single season by PFF, with grades of 95.3 for run-blocking and 91.1 for pass-blocking. He was also the highest-graded player at any position that year. He did not allow a sack, only seven pressures and two QB hits in 2019.
Coming into 2020, obviously the pandemic hit. The Pac-12 announced in August 2020 that it would postpone all sports through to the end of the calendar year. Sewell therefore announced in September 2020 that he would opt-out of the season and focus on the 2021 NFL Draft. This made sense, because resuming a season at the start of 2021 is very close to the April date for the draft, with any injury catastrophic for his draft stock. Not all opt-outs are equal considering how the different divisions treated the pandemic, but this for me is no black mark.
The first thing that jumps off the page is how explosive he is in run blocking. The way he releases on the line is almost wide receiver-like. He's agile enough to dodge defensive ends and block at the second level if he needs, efficient enough that he can finish a block on the first and second levels before the running back comes past him and fast enough to get out on swing passes to block cornerbacks. His legs just keep pumping which allows him to drive defenders back a long way.
In pass blocking, a few things show up - he's very patient and waits for the defensive end to attack so that he can counter, rather the preempting any move and making himself vulnerable. He's very intelligent about how the attack is coming, managing on multiple occasions to pass off a DE block to a guard as the rush comes inside out from a defensive tackle or linebacker. When he does get beaten, his recovery is incredible - he has an amazing anchor and can adjust without skipping a beat. If he gets you in his grip - he's won the rep, don't bother trying.
As you can imagine from the above, there isn't a lot here but I can identify a few.
In pass protection, his first step outside is so explosive, that sometimes DEs can beat him inside. I actually think he needs to just take a few milliseconds longer to make that step to ensure that rushers don't target inside him rather than speeding around the outside.
His lack of playing football experience generally is concerning. He only played 19 college games total, having started playing as a 17-year-old in college. He lacks experience, even if he doesn't play like it.
As the presumptive right tackle starter, he hasn't played at RT since high school. By his own admission during press conferences, it's not an easy transition, and Coach Campbell has conceded that he "looks like a rookie".
Intangibles - His attitude shows up through everything you see in game film and through pressers. Watching game film, when he doesn't quite finish or make a block, if he makes an error, he's very visibly angry at himself. You can tell he's a prideful guy who wants to win at all costs, he deeply cares. With how he's been at OTAs, he's shadowing the veteran's on the offensive line to ensure that he prepares like a professional. He's asking many questions of the right people to ensure his technique is refined and improved. In talks with the press, his passion, dedication and desire are clear.
All in all, Sewell's ceiling is so high, given the athletic traits he has which should also provide a high floor to start, but his intelligence and work ethic should mean that the sky is the limit for him. Year 1 might be a bit iffy with the transition to RT, but in Year 2 I expect that he will play at a Pro Bowl level.
Welcome to Detroit Penei!
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