Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell has been widely considered to be the top offensive tackle prospect in this draft class. He is seen as a can’t-miss prospect that is potentially the second best prospect overall, behind only Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. There is no doubt that Sewell is a great prospect that can start as a rookie at the next level. However, he is not the perfect prospect that everyone perceives him to be.
First, I will address Sewell’s skills, as he has no shortage of them. At 6’6”, 331 pounds, Sewell has the ideal frame for an NFL OT. He is physical and strong and can maintain a square base while in pass protection. His long arms allow him to quickly engage with defenders and prevent them from getting to the quarterback.
Sewell has uncharacteristic speed for his size, as he can efficiently get into the open field as a lead blocker. He can defend against power and speed rushers of all sizes and speeds. He is a mauler in the run game and creates large holes for running backs. Sewell dominates at the second level, easily overpowering linebackers.
However, Sewell does have some issues in pass protection. He sometimes allows rushers to strike him first and get inside his shoulders, disrupting his base. This allows the rusher to push Sewell into the backfield, collapsing the pocket. He also gets too high in his stance on some snaps, which allows rushers to beat him as well.
Sewell can, however, make up for these flaws due to his size and footwork. Draft analysts rave about his ability to readjust his feet to prevent further progress by the defensive player. However, I believe his size is more of a factor in these situations. When Sewell’s fundamentals deteriorate in a passing situation, his size and strength make it difficult for the defender to move him out of the way. Since the defender can’t move Sewell, it gives him time to adjust his feet, therefore giving the quarterback enough time to throw the ball.
While some scouts rank Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater higher than Penei Sewell, I think that Sewell is the more polished tackle prospect. Sewell has a more ideal body type for a franchise left tackle, as Slater is two inches shorter. Sewell may not be as perfect of a prospect as some think, but he is the best tackle available in this class.
Sewell could be selected as high as 2nd overall to the New York Jets, but that hinges on what the Jets decide to do with QB Sam Darnold. If Sewell falls past the Cincinnati Bengals at the 5th pick, I believe a team will trade up to select him. He should not fall out of the top 8.