2021 NFL draft prospects: Oregon OT Penei Sewell

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Eric Edholm
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Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Oregon OT Penei Sewell

6-foot-5, 331 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.13 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Rare, ascending athlete at left tackle who has immense potential but could use some seasoning at age 20

Games watched: Auburn (2019), Nevada (2019), Cal (2019), Wisconsin (2019)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 60 nationally), Sewell chose the Ducks out of high school and became the first Oregon player to start as a true freshman in 20 years in 2018. He started seven games total at left tackle, including the first six, but missed six games with an ankle injury, returning for the bowl game. In 2019, Sewell started all 13 games and was named the Outland Trophy winner (best interior lineman in college football) at age 19, also taking home first-team all-Pac-12 honors. He opted out of the 2020 season and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Wide-framed body that can support a lot of weight. Rare athleticism for a man his size. Still growing into his body and possesses immense strength potential. Racked out 30 bench-press reps at his pro day.

Outstanding athletic traits. Exceptionally quick and light feet. Fires off the ball naturally and quickly and wins some battles before his opponent even engages. Great balance, flexibility and body control. Will sink and explode with force. Big, strong and active hands to lay the wood and set the tone.

Driving run blocker who can load and unleash power. Competitive blocker who churns through the muck and can push the pile — gets low. Great in space, even leading the way as an inside puller who can work to the second level on zone run series. Can make tough reach blocks that other tackles his size cannot. Offers great creativity to play designers with his unusual movement skills.

Bends naturally at the knees as a pass protector. Steers rushers outside the pocket and keeps a clean pocket. Will hold up vs. bull rushes. Flashes great recovery ability — can regain his balance quickly and find his anchor. Will cut off rush paths late to save his QB’s bacon.

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 22: University of Oregon OL Penei Sewell (58) at the line of scrimmage during a college football game between the Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal on September 22, 2018, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.(Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Oregon OT Penei Sewell possesses as much potential as any left tackle to come along the past few years. (Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Opponents sometimes put their worst pass rusher opposite him, hoping to get mismatches on the other side of the line. Only one sack allowed (as a freshman) in more than 700 pass-rush snaps. Has right tackle experience from high school.

Delivers some absolute haymaker blocks — if he gets a step or two of momentum toward his target, look out. Active on-field worker — keeps his head on a swivel and is always seeking out more action. Good vision to locate active threats.

His flash plays are as good as any OL prospect in the past few draft cycles — All-Pro potential if he puts it all together. Dominated upperclassmen at age 19. Won’t turn 21 years old until October. Likeable personality — reserved off the field but possesses a fiery game temperament.

Downside: Experience is lacking. 2020 opt out who started only 20 college games. Played only one position in college. Lacks elite length — passable height but relatively short arms (33 1/4 inches) and wingspan (80 7/8 inches). A tad high-cut.

Didn’t display a lot of true pass sets — lots of screens and quick throws. Didn’t face a ton of high-caliber rushers in 2019. Wasn’t beaten often by quickness around the edge but let a few pressure slip through, especially in short sets, such as this rep vs. Wisconsin’s Zack Baun in the 2019 Rose Bowl:

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Gets a little too jacked up early in games — can be overanxious, fire off a bit recklessly and miss his marks. Needs a series or two to settle into some games. Punches don’t always land. Gives up his broad chest too often and can be long-armed. Can dominate more with better hand work. Finds himself on the ground too often — will lunge occasionally and lose his leverage.

Play strength is inconsistent. Could use even more core development. Pro-day workout featured some middling results in the 3-cone drill (7.76 seconds), short shuttle (4.68 seconds), vertical jump (28 inches) and 10-yard split (1.79 seconds). Conditioning must be closely monitored — reported to the Ducks at nearly 375 pounds and might need regular weigh-ins.

Could require some maturing — will be one of the youngest rookies next season and will be asked to work like he never has before. Some scouts believe he could spend more time honing his craft. Can burn out a little in games and run low on gas. Medical history (high-school shoulder injury, ankle as freshman) isn’t spotless.

Best-suited destination: Sewell profiles as a left tackle who could ascend to one of the best at his position. But we think there will be a learning curve following the opt-out season and sky-high expectations. Adapting to a different style of offense also could slow his development some, so it would not be stunning to see Sewell have some rough patches early.

Even so, there’s a ton of appreciation in NFL circles about his upside, and the finished product could be special. We’d love to see him land with a team that has a patient OL coach, an offense that features movement (pulling, getting out on screens) and emphasizes the zone run game and perhaps a savvy veteran left guard who can protect his inside a bit.

In time, Sewell could be special. We just don’t believe it will be an overnight success.

Did you know: Sewell lived in American Samoa growing up, moving to the United States with his family when he was 10 years old. He learned the game overseas, playing in a youth league there that also included Carolina Panthers LB Frankie Luvu, along with Sewell’s brothers.

One brother, Gabriel, played linebacker at Nevada. Another brother, Nephi, walked on at Utah as a linebacker, eventually earning a scholarship after developing into a starter. And the youngest of the Sewell boys, Noah, is a linebacker at Oregon, who was named Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year by the conference’s coaches in 2020.

Their father, Gabe Sr., coached football in St. George, Utah. And two of their uncles, Isaac Sopoaga and Richard Brown, played in the NFL. Sopoaga was a fourth-round defensive tackle who played 10 years in the league, mostly for the 49ers. Brown was a 12-game starter for the Browns in 1991 on Bill Belichick’s defense.

Player comp: Jason Peters

Expected draft range: Top-10 pick