Long before Zach Wilson’s stock rose, former Desert Hills High offensive tackle Penei Sewell looked like the surefire first Utah-raised prospect who would go off the board in this year’s NFL draft.

Despite Wilson’s ascension, Sewell could still very well be the first Utahn to hear his name called when the draft takes place April 29-May 1. He was an immediate starter at Oregon and won the 2019 Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation’s best college football interior lineman.

By all accounts, the 20-year-old Sewell is the most polished offensive line prospect in this year’s draft class and has been rated as one of the best tackle prospects in recent memory by Pro Football Focus.

Perhaps in other years, Sewell, who opted out of the 2020 season and began preparations for the draft, could be in consideration for the No. 1 overall pick, as Jacksonville is in need of help at the offensive tackle position. The Jaguars are widely expected to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the top pick, though, and recently new Jaguars coach Urban Meyer emphasized the importance of choosing right at the QB position.

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“Who we pick at that quarterback spot, that’s going to be one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my lifetime,” Meyer said recently.

So, unless something changes, take the Jaguars off the list for potential suitors. That said, here’s a look at five teams who could be in the market for Sewell’s services among franchises who own draft picks in the top half of the first round, with contract details via Spotrac.

New York Jets

No. 2 overall pick in 2021 NFL draft

2020 OT starters: Mekhi Becton (signed through 2023, $1.45 million base salary in 2021), George Fant (signed through 2022, $8 million base salary in 2021) 

Becton was the Jets’ first-round draft pick last year, and he was the bright spot up front for New York in 2020 — he rated 19th among 38 qualifying left tackles with a 74.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. So if New York were to go with Sewell, someone would have to move to the other side of the line, which makes this selection less likely to happen. Also, Fant started 14 games at right tackle after joining the team last year and will be back in 2021.

If New York were to keep quarterback Sam Darnold around heading into his fourth NFL season, though, the Jets could use more tools on the offensive line to keep him protected, and naturally, going after the draft’s best O-line prospect makes sense. Sewell would surely improve a New York line that was rated fourth-worst in the league by Pro Football Focus in 2020. 

The Jets gave up 43 sacks this past season, and they also were among the league’s worst in yards per carry (4.1, sixth-worst). Guys like Sewell and Becton bookending the line would give New York some young talent to build around for the future and improve on those numbers. 

Miami Dolphins

No. 3, No. 18 overall picks in 2021 NFL draft

2020 OT starters: Austin Jackson (signed through 2023, $1.23 million base salary in 2021), Robert Hunt (signed through 2023, $976,625 base salary in 2021)

The Dolphins have a young offensive line, and that includes a pair of tackles they chose in the first two rounds of last year’s draft — Jackson in the first round and Hunt in the second. Jackson started 12 games at left tackle this past season, and Hunt started 11 overall and earned a 76.4 grade from Pro Football Focus over the final six weeks of the year (fifth among 37 qualifying right tackles). The team also drafted guard Solomon Kindley, who started 13 games.

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With a generational talent like Sewell, the Dolphins could use another draft to shore up an offensive line that improved from giving up 58 sacks two seasons ago to giving up 34 in 2020. Miami did a fair share of shifting its linemen around this past season and could do so again to best utilize young talent if they go with Sewell and stick him at left tackle. 

If Miami keeps the No. 3 pick it got in a trade with Houston, the Dolphins could also use the selection on a skill player to give quarterback Tua Tagovailoa more options. Someone like Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith — this year’s Heisman Trophy winner — might be available here. There’s also the possibility Miami, which also owns the No. 18 pick, will trade down and use this pick to build some draft capital.

Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams (73) warms up before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. | Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

Cincinnati Bengals

No. 5 overall pick in 2021 NFL draft

2020 OT starters: Jonah Williams (signed through 2022, $2.1 million base salary in 2021), Bobby Hart (signed through 2021, $4.9 million base salary in 2021)

The Bengals have one of the more promising young quarterbacks in the game in Joe Burrow, whom they selected first overall in the 2020 NFL draft, and picking Sewell would be a move toward protecting their franchise quarterback. Burrow was sacked 32 times and took 42 quarterback hits before he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 11.

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Williams was the team’s first-round selection two year ago, and he’s manned the left tackle position when healthy. He missed the 2019 season with a torn labrum, then missed the final six games this past season with a right knee injury, but he’s seen as a staple on that line and could be paired with Sewell to provide one of the better young tackle duos in the league.

Cincinnati, which will have a projected $34 million in cap space this offseason, per Spotrac, has plenty of reasons to go high on Sewell and improve its offensive front. The Bengals gave up 48 sacks this past season, tied for fifth-most in the NFL, and were ranked by Pro Football Focus as the third-worst line in the league last year, with only Williams posting a pass block grade above 70.0 (he was at 75.8).

Carolina Panthers

No. 8 overall pick in 2021 NFL draft

2020 OT starters: Russell Okung (unrestricted free agent in 2021), Taylor Moton (unrestricted free agent in 2021)

Sewell could be in play for the Panthers in the back half of the top 10 picks if he’s still around, considering Carolina’s top two tackles are both headed into free agency this offseason. Okung, a two-time Pro Bowler, made $13 million in base salary this past season after being traded from the Los Angeles Chargers. Moton, meanwhile, was a steal at $1.03 million in base salary on the final year of his rookie contract (he was a second-round pick in 2017).

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It wouldn’t be a surprise for Carolina to re-sign one of the two, though bringing back both would be costly. Okung was at left tackle, with Moton at right tackle, and Moton rated third this past season among qualifying right tackles with a career-best 81.2 grade from Pro Football Focus. Sewell could pair with one of them to help provide stabilization on the outside of the line.

If the Panthers want to get into the Sewell sweepstakes, though, they may need to trade up. In most mock drafts, Sewell is gone before the eighth overall pick, though it’s conceivable he slides a bit. Carolina could also use this pick to select one of their other needs, like a top-flight cornerback or a young quarterback to learn under Teddy Bridgewater.

Los Angeles Chargers tackle Sam Tevi (69) blocks Miami Dolphins safety Bobby McCain (28) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. | Doug Murray, Associated Press

Los Angeles Chargers

No. 13 overall pick in 2021 NFL draft

2020 OT starters: Sam Tevi (unrestricted free agent in 2021), Bryan Bulaga (signed through 2023, $7.75 million in base salary in 2021) 

Like Cincinnati, the Chargers have significant needs at improving their offensive line in order to protect a young, promising quarterback. For Los Angeles, it’s Justin Herbert, who coincidentally played two years with Sewell at Oregon. In that sense, this would be a perfect fit.

While Bulaga is set to return after starting 10 games at right tackle last season, the Chargers will likely be looking for a new starting left tackle. Tevi, a sixth-round draft pick out of Utah in 2017, started 14 games on the left side this past season, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. A fresh start could be good, though: Los Angeles was rated the worst offensive line this past season by Pro Football Focus, and its top-rated lineman was reserve Storm Norton, who had three late-season starts.

The Chargers may have put themselves out of position, though, by winning their final four games of the year. Prior to that, they held a much higher draft pick and were in prime position to select Sewell. Now, though, they’d likely have to trade up to be in consideration for him.

Other teams with OT needs

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys, who own the No. 10 overall pick, dealt with injuries to starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins in 2020 and could use some depth to rebuild what was once one of the league’s most formidable lines.

New York Giants: The Giants, who have the No. 11 overall pick, used the fourth overall pick last year on tackle Andrew Thomas, though he gave up 10 sacks this past season, and right tackle Cameron Fleming allowed the sixth-most pressures at the position, per Pro Football Focus.  

San Francisco 49ers: Starting left tackle Trent Williams is 32 years old, is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and was paid $12.5 million in 2020. If the 49ers, who have the No. 12 pick, could get Sewell, he’d be a much cheaper option with age on his side. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Alejandro Villanueva has been an every-game starter for the Steelers — who own the No. 24 overall pick — over the past five seasons, though the left tackle will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Pittsburgh, which allowed just 14 sacks in 2020, could use some youth along its offensive line.