Come Thursday night, Penei Sewell will become the first Desert Hills High graduate to be selected in the NFL draft.
The former Oregon star offensive tackle is rated by most as the top prospect at his position, and he’s expected to be a high first-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Figuring out where he’ll land Thursday night, though, is tougher to determine, as a few suitors have risen to the top before the first round kicks off in Cleveland.
There’s a lot to like about the star lineman’s game. Sewell gave up just one sack over 1,376 snaps in two seasons at Oregon — helping him win the Outland Trophy as a sophomore in 2019 — before opting out of the 2020 season during the pandemic.
“I like to play real physical,” Sewell said, via The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “I like to use my body type to my advantage and to really get up under people’s chin and to really showcase my mentality (that) I’m coming off the ball every play with violent intentions and that nothing less is coming from that.”
The Penei Sewell file
Position: Offensive tackle
Weight: 331 pounds
High school: Desert Hills High
Accolades: Outland Trophy winner, unanimous first-team All-American in 2019, USA Today and 247 Sports freshman All-American in 2018
What’s being said about Penei Sewell
- “Overall, Sewell must develop his body angles, timing and finishing skills, but he has prestigious big man balance, mobility and football instincts. He projects as an immediate NFL starter at left tackle with Pro Bowl potential.” — Dane Brugler, The Athletic
- “He’s a good kid but he’s immature as a worker so he might need a veteran to take him under his wing and help him learn to be a pro. Very few men who walk the Earth have his size and athleticism so he’s worth any type of risk you think you are taking with (limited) tape.” — National scout for NFC team, per NFL.com
- “Sewell earned the highest single-season grade we have ever given to a college offensive tackle … as a true sophomore. We haven’t seen him play a snap since his age-19 season, and he’s still talked about as a top-five pick. That tells you everything you need to know about his dominance.” — Pro Football Focus
- “Not only does Sewell have the makings of an elite prospect, but he also appears to have the right mindset entering the NFL draft. He’s willing to play in whatever position necessary and desires to be a leader when he earns the respect of his franchise. No matter when Sewell hears his name on draft night, he’s more than ready to attack this new challenge with everything he has.” — CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani
Who might draft Penei Sewell?
It’s expected the top three picks in the first round will be quarterbacks, including former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson to the New York Jets with the No. 2 overall pick. While Atlanta has the fourth pick, many projections have the Falcons taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or trading down with another QB-needy team.
That likely means the time to watch for Sewell to come off the board begins around the No. 5 pick. What teams have been most associated with Sewell in the lead-up to the draft?
Cincinnati Bengals (No. 5 overall pick): The Bengals are one of the most popular landing spots for Sewell, especially considering the team has been looking to bolster its line to protect last year’s No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Joe Burrow. There’s also been plenty of chatter that Cincinnati may choose between him and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5.
“Big, athletic, powerful, can do a lot of things really well, had a good workout,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said about Sewell on Monday, per NBC Sports. “Certainly you can see why he’s put himself in position to be a top pick in the draft.”
Miami Dolphins (No. 6 overall pick): On Tuesday, the Dolphins traded guard Ereck Flowers to Washington, their latest move in what’s been a busy offseason. Following news of the trade, the Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley reported the team may be interested in drafting Sewell and moving Robert Hunt over to guard, as Miami tries to protect its second-year quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa.
Detroit Lions (No. 7 overall pick): Sewell has fallen to the Lions in some mock drafts. The Lions have an open starting position at right tackle, and team writer Tim Twentyman said, “Adding a player like Sewell would really ramp up that competition and give Detroit terrific talent and depth at the tackle positions.”
Carolina Panthers (No. 8 overall pick): Carolina is also a popular landing spot in this year’s draft projections for Sewell, especially after the team allowed veteran Russell Okung to walk in free agency. “Great teams have great offensive lines,” the Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan M. Alexander wrote earlier this month. “And Sewell falling to No. 8 would be a luxury for the Panthers. He’d address one of their biggest needs and he’s one of the top players in the draft.”
Denver Broncos (No. 9 overall pick): The Broncos are set at left tackle with former University of Utah and Westlake High lineman Garett Bolles, who earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2020. At right tackle, though, the team is less settled. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, when asked what Denver might do at No. 9 if a quarterback they like isn’t there at that point, said he’d like them to see them go for an offensive tackle, either Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater.
“Sewell is going to be — I saw he’s doing on work on the right side to get comfortable taking some sets over there,” Jeremiah said on a recent conference call. “I would imagine with Bolles kind of coming around and playing the way he did last year that Sewell just plugs right in at right tackle and off you go.”
Los Angeles Chargers (No. 13 overall pick): While the Chargers would likely need to trade up, since Sewell isn’t expected to drop this low, he would be reunited with his college quarterback, Justin Herbert, if Sewell were to land with the Chargers. Herbert, the team’s first-round pick last year and the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, is stumping for his team, which needs help on the offensive line, to make a play for Sewell.
“I’m doing my best. He’s an incredible player,” Herbert told NFL Network’s Taylor Bisciotti. “Whenever you get a tackle like that in the draft, he can change your program. Always a big fan and I’m an even bigger fan of the way he is off the field.”