SALT LAKE CITY — The ink is barely dry on the 2020 NFL Draft, and there’s already talk — specifically, mock drafts — about what will happen next year.
That’s just the nature of sports journalism in this day and age.
If these 2021 mock drafts already online really are a predictor of things to come, there is a Utah talent, perhaps even two, who will go high in next year’s draft.
Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, the Desert Hills High alum who won last year’s Outland Trophy — given annually to college football’s top interior lineman — is viewed as a top three talent for the 2021 class if he leaves the Ducks following his junior season.
Sewell is seen as a top three talent along with a pair of quarterbacks — Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller even tabbed the 6-foot-6, 330-pounder as next year’s No. 1 pick in his way-too-early mock draft prediction, with Cincinnati selecting the dominant lineman.
“Sewell’s 2019 tape showed no weaknesses. If he continues to play at that clip in 2020, he’ll be a lock to be the first overall pick if a team without a need at quarterback selects in this spot,” Miller wrote.
“Sewell’s 2019 tape showed no weaknesses. If he continues to play at that clip in 2020, he’ll be a lock to be the first overall pick if a team without a need at quarterback selects in this spot.” — Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller
In six national mock drafts published in the past few days, Washington is a popular destination for Sewell — The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Hanson both have Sewell going to the Redskins as the second overall pick, while CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson pegged him to Washington one selection later.
“If Dwayne Haskins continues to struggle in Year 2, this pick could easily be another Ohio State quarterback. But if Haskins takes a step in the right direction, then continuing to build around him should be the goal, including at left tackle where Sewell can fill the shoes of the departed Trent Williams,” Brugler wrote.
Sewell, a unanimous first-team All-American in 2019 who started 13 games at left tackle for the Ducks last season, never drops below the third pick in any of the mock drafts. SB Nation’s Dan Kadar also has Sewell going to Cincinnati, with the third pick — “the Bengals have their franchise quarterback in (2020 first pick Joe) Burrow, but their line play has been suspect,” Kadar wrote — while Fox Sports’ Jason McIntyre sends him to the New York Giants at No. 3.
Sewell did not allow a sack over 926 snaps during the 2019 season and allowed just seven pressures and two hits on the quarterback. He’ll be joined in Oregon next year by his brother, Orem High 5-star signee and interior linebacker Noah Sewell.
247 Sports’ Chris Hummer has Penei Sewell No. 3 on his 2021 big board, behind only Lawrence and Fields, calling Sewell “a first-round lock” barring any unforeseen regression or injury.
“He’s the most feared run-blocker in the country and remarkably dexterous on the edge,” Hummer wrote.
Sewell isn’t the only Utah prep star who could go in the first round, though. Three of the six mock drafts include former Bingham defensive tackle Jay Tufele, now at USC, going in the first round in 2021.
Kadar is the most bullish on Tufele, sending him to Denver at No. 14. “Tufele improved as a pass rusher last season, and would be a nice fit on a team that runs a lot of three-down linemen looks,” Kadar wrote.
Tufele, who will be a redshirt junior in 2020, is a late-round selection in two other mocks — No. 30 to Baltimore in Wilson’s predictions, and No. 32 to Kansas City in Hanson’s.
“(Tufele) who’s extremely athletic for his 315-pound frame, makes sense if he’s available at the end of round 1,” Hanson wrote.