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We already know what the experts had to say about Chris Olave in their pre-draft scouting reports — but what about the New Orleans Saints’ other 2022 first round pick Trevor Penning? There has been some speculation about whether the Northern Iowa left tackle has what it takes to win the starting job for the Saints right off the bat, but there’s little doubting his long-term potential. Between Penning’s physical tools and his heady mindset, draft analysts are eager to see what he can do after turning pro:
Dane Brugler, The Athletic
STRENGTHS: Owns ideal measurements with his tall, well-proportioned body along with his long arms and big hands … moves with athletic footwork in his setup and slide steps … plays wide in his pass sets with enough lower-body quickness to hold up on an island … uses his length to steer rushers and maintain pocket integrity … able to sink and reestablish his anchor versus bull rushers … powerful at contact in the run game and creates torque from his hips to his hands to bury defenders … competes with a nasty demeanor and doesn’t apologize for it … he prides himself on his intense personality while playing (“When I’m on the field, I’m looking to embarrass who I’m going against. No mercy.”) … was only 210 pounds as a high school junior before moving to the offensive line and worked his tail off to gain weight and develop in the weight room (broke the school’s squat record by doing 625 pounds) … didn’t miss a game due to injury the last three years and logged starts at three different positions (left tackle, right tackle, right guard).
WEAKNESSES: Inconsistent knee bend and can be knocked backward when he plays upright … must adjust his pass-set depth to stay square to rushers … must better protect versus inside rush lanes … his hands are often high and late, giving up his chest … gets too eager at times with his punch, and savvy rushers use it against him … finds himself out of control and off balance at the second level … tends to dawdle on his first block and can be late adjusting on combinations or stunts … prematurely goes for the kill shot and loses his bearings or tosses his man into the pocket … played against lower level of competition in the FCS.
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Northern Iowa, Penning was the left tackle in offensive coordinator Ryan Clanton’s scheme. With only one season of high school experience on the offensive line, he dedicated himself to the weight room when he arrived at UNI and took his development seriously, growing into one of the best offensive linemen in college football, regardless of level. Penning is an athletic mover (fastest 10-yard and 20-yard splits among linemen at the combine) with the long arms and nasty attitude that consistently bail him out of trouble. His pass-set angles are inconsistent and he must do a better job with his lower-body bend and handwork to win the leverage game. Overall, Penning’s fundamentals and on-field discipline need to be coached up, but he has an impressive blend of size, length,
fluidity and power along with the physical presence to dominate the man in front of him. With his traits, he can be a rookie NFL starter as he works out the kinks.
GRADE: 1st Round (No. 16 overall)
Drae Harris, The Draft Network
Trevor Penning is a good athlete with good explosion and agility to get out on the perimeter. In the run game, he is a nasty and physical player. He has a savage temperament and has finished several plays with the defender on the ground. He is extremely powerful at the point of attack and gets consistent vertical movement in the run game. However, due to his size and inability to bend extremely well, leverage issues are of slight concern against smaller edge defenders.
In the passing game, he has been a dominant player in the Missouri Valley Conference. He bends a little at the waist which gets him in trouble at times. He had a couple instances of struggling with the hard inside move by quicker defenders. Although he is a good athlete overall, when he has to move laterally, he has shown instances of struggling. He doesn’t bend exceptionally well, which results in him bending at the waist at times. When his posture isn’t good, it affects his balance while in his pass set. However, he has a powerful punch and is virtually impossible to bull rush. He demonstrates very good length and range and could suffice in the NFL at left tackle. However, he may be a better fit on the right side.
Ideal Role: Starting Offensive Tackle
Scheme Fit: Power run scheme would suit his skillset best but could play in any scheme
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
Three-year starter at left tackle with outstanding measurables on a low-cut, well-built frame. Penning plays with a level of disgust for anyone lining up against him and seeks out violent block finishes when possible. He’s athletic enough to block on the move and has the potential to shine as a powerful drive blocker. Size, length and know-how have been more than enough to ward off FCS pass rushers, but he needs to operate with better inside-out positioning while developing much firmer edges to succeed against a more talented group of quarterback hunters. Penning has both traits and toughness but the tape can leave you wanting just a little more from him. He should become an instant starter at left or right tackle but the jump in competition will take time to navigate.
Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network
There are some areas where Penning can further refine his game. Nevertheless, both athletically and operationally, there are some things to be excited about. While Penning isn’t as athletic as his former teammate Brown, he’s still a great athlete. Penning’s short-range explosiveness allows him to get in position quickly, and he has enough lateral mobility to match rushers around the edge.
On top of his athleticism, Penning has a massive, well-proportioned frame with elite length. His hands can be violent, and he’s a mean, nasty mauler who might be one of the most aggressive linemen in the 2022 NFL Draft. He still has a lot to clean up, but scouts will be enamored by the upside and the aggressive mentality with Penning. In fact, late in 2021, PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline reported that some scouts already had Penning rated as the top tackle in the class.
It’s easy to fall in love with Penning’s upside and aggression. Although there’s a lot to work with, his standing as arguably the top tackle might be a little rich. Beyond his nasty attitude and strength, Penning has a lot to clean up. Technical flaws like high pad level, inconsistent feet, and open hands could be easily exploited at the NFL level. His modest lateral stiffness also bears noting. Penning could move inside to guard, where his physicality would be maximized. But his high pad level would hurt there, too.
Trevor Penning is a three-year starter with starts at both tackle spots and guard. He has prototypical size with light feet and high-level power to play on an island and generate movement as a run-blocker on double-teams, down blocks and frontside kick-outs.
Penning does a nice job of snatching defenders who lean in pass protection, with the ability to drop his hips and anchor quickly. He imposes his will and dominates competition with overwhelming size and torque, but he has occasional lapses where he appears to go through the motions, letting defenders slip blocks too easily.
Penning tends to turn his hips early toward widely aligned speed-rushers who attack the corner with high pads, leaving his inside shoulder vulnerable to getting lifted and pried open. He also needs to work on resetting his hands quicker when his punch lands high on defenders to prevent getting forklifted and shed.
Penning has ideal size with high-level power, above-average athletic ability and the demeanor to be a quality starter right away. He can become an impact starter if he can learn to play with more discipline, consistent leverage and hand placement.
GRADE: 8.0 (Year 1 Starter – Late 1st-2nd Round