NFL draft prospect Penei Sewell plays with 'violent intentions,' may not reach Detroit Lions

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Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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Another day, another quarterback trade in the NFL. And this one could make it more likely that the Detroit Lions stay at No. 7.

The Carolina Panthers traded a sixth-round pick in this month's draft and second-and fourth-round choices next year to the New York Jets on Monday for quarterback Sam Darnold.

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That likely takes the Panthers out of the quarterback mix at No. 8, and could make it more difficult for the Lions to find a quarterback-needy team willing to trade up for whichever of the big five signal callers — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones — fall out of the top six.

Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who won the Outland Trophy in 2019, will have a big decision to make between a possible 2021 spring season or entering next spring's NFL draft. [Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard] - registerguard.com
Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who won the Outland Trophy in 2019, will have a big decision to make between a possible 2021 spring season or entering next spring's NFL draft. [Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard] - registerguard.com

If quarterbacks go with the first four picks, something that could happen for the first time in NFL history, the Lions would be in position to take one of the three best non-quarterbacks in the draft.

LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and Florida's Kyle Pitts cemented their status as the best receiver and tight end available with impressive pro day performances last week. And while Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell put up less gaudy numbers at his pro day, as offensive linemen are prone to do, ESPN analyst Todd McShay said Monday he is in the same elite class of prospect as Chase and Pitts.

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"Sewell’s such a good player," McShay said. "We haven’t seen him play in over a year, but he’s 330 pounds. He’s long, he’s athletic. He’s not as quick and as sudden as (Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn) Slater. but he’s so hard to get around because he’s so long and big. And once he latches onto you, it’s over. I think he’s going to be the first offensive tackle off the board."

The Lions return both starting tackles from last season in Taylor Decker and Tyrell Crosby and have bigger needs throughout their roster, but Sewell is an intriguing fit for a team that is essentially starting anew.

Just 20 years old (he doesn't turn 21 till October) Sewell won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman as a sophomore in 2019, when he earned the highest grade ever given to an offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus.

Will Oregon OT Penei Sewell (58) be the first non-quarterback drafted in 2021?
Will Oregon OT Penei Sewell (58) be the first non-quarterback drafted in 2021?

Sewell opted out of Oregon's shortened season last fall due to COVID-19 concerns, but he explained Monday why he still is considered a blue-chip prospect.

"Just go put on the tape," he said. "Everybody just go ahead and watch what I do, and it’s nobody can do what I do in this draft in the offensive tackle room. So I bring something totally different to the table and I think people notice that. People know that, but again, people will say whatever they want to say and all I have to say is put on the tape and watch me work."

McShay said Sewell could go as high as No. 5 to the Cincinnati Bengals, who sent director of player personnel Duke Tobin and head coach Zac Taylor to Oregon's pro day last week, and whose offensive line coach, Frank Pollack, ran Sewell's pro day workout.

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The Miami Dolphins at No. 6, with a young quarterback to protect in Tua Tagovailoa, also are in the market for an offensive tackle, and the Lions' at No. 7, despite the presence of Decker and Crosby, could be hard-pressed to pass on a lineman that McShay said has All-Pro potential.

“These offensive tackles are really good," McShay said. "I’m not saying they’re going to be the best in the league, but I think that Penei Sewell from Oregon, Rashawn Slater from Northwestern, and even (Alijah) Vera-Tucker from USC, I think they’re all plug-and-play starters right away. And I think that they’re going to be really good pros. I think they’re probably three of the safest picks in the first round, to be honest with you."

Sewell said he has talked "here and there" with Lions coach Dan Campbell during the pre-draft process, and his punishing style seems to fit what Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes are trying to build in Detroit.

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“I like to play real physical," Sewell said. "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."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Oregon OT Penei Sewell: 'Nobody can do what I do' in this NFL draft