Scouting Report: OL Penei Sewell 6’6″ 331 (Oregon)
Penei Sewell is a fluid, athletic brawler and fighter with long arms, good natural strength and a thick upper/lower body, and thick calves. Needs considerable hand and footwork as a left tackle (LT). Solid build. Reminds me of Kevin Mawae in terms of demeanor and temperament. Has streaks of physicality and nastiness that show up – at other times he takes his foot off the gas some. He is not a finisher by nature. That is not his game. He is a classic finesse hold-the-point blocker who tends to do just enough to get by and stays off the ground most of the time against the college-level competition. I have real concerns projecting him to the NFL level.
Good initial kick out to wall off the perimeter in pass pro. Looks athletic, to begin with on initial setup. Relies on a big frame and athleticism to seal off and make his presence known. If he is not touched he can slide his feet just fine. Has to reach, but hand placement at the point tends to be wide at the point of attack. Heavy anchor. Nobody is going to make a living bull rushing him. Once strongly engaged, he can consistently stop moving his feet or waist bend which makes him susceptible through the back or front door of the pocket. Starts losing control in these instances. This consistently shows up on film. Often does just enough. Can look out of control at times. Looks more like a street fighter than a smooth technician. Very average recovery ability. Does tend to keep his man off the quarterback (not always pretty), but I question the level of competition vs. Auburn, Wisconsin, and CAL in 2019. I also question the level of competition against Michigan State and Stanford I watched in 2018. Stunts and blitzes can cause issues and I suspect they will cause much worse problems at the NFL level (there were strong hints of this in the five games I watched and listed). Excels getting out in space and to the second level, but it can be hit and miss in terms of sustain.
In run blocking situations, he excels at position and leverage blocking when he can use the combination of his athleticism and his big frame to the wall and seal off running lanes. Brute power and natural strength come out on display when he has leverage advantage. Does a lot of shoving and pushing and often does just enough to get the job done effectively. At times snaps off and finishes a block to the ground – but that is not his thing.
When I hear “Top offensive lineman in the draft,” I expect to turn on the film and see a 350-pound dancing ballerina-like Tyron Smith (DAL) or some big physical athletic mauler throwing people around like rag dolls. However, when I watched Sewell, I am seeing choice C, none of the above. For this reason, Sewell does not make it onto my top-10 board. I have seen the best of the best over the past 40 years that I have been watching the game. I have seen all of them – Jackie Slater, Jim Lachey, Jonathan Ogden, Willie Roaf, Anthony Munoz, Richmond Webb, Jumbo Elliott, Joe Jacoby, Gary Zimmerman, Chris Samuels, and Lomas Brown just to name a few. When I stack up Sewell against these names, I am not seeing it. I am not at all seeing a polished finished top-10 prospect who is ready to step into the National Football League and dominate. Scouting is all about being able to project and I am not seeing that projection. To his defense, he held his own at the college level, but I firmly believe his handwork and footwork will cause considerable problems at the NFL level and I do not like he is not a finisher by nature either. He is more of a finesse blocker with average techniques.
The LT position in the NFL sees all the best pass rushers in the game and I believe polished speed pass rushers will create a real problem for Sewell. I also believe he will see considerable problems against games, stunts, and blitzes from the outside and on his inside shoulder. I believe we are looking at a second-round prospect here and I will go a step further. Sewell projects better as a left guard. He will require a good offensive line coach to begin with, but hand and footwork are not easily corrected overnight and it may not be corrected at all depending on how humble and teachable Sewell is. I also have concerns that his footwork may not be able to be corrected given his thick and heavy calves.
Size alone does not qualify a prospect to be slated in the top-10. They are all big. Every offensive lineman at this level is big. The question is what makes this guy special and special by comparison? I am not seeing it. I am not feeling it either. I do not see anything dominant about his handwork, footwork, or in terms of his physicality. To compound problems, he was an opt-out, which further spices up the risk-reward factor. Sewell is simply a good athlete who is big and benefited from being a big fish in a small pond against lesser levels of competition. His techniques leave something to be desired and he lacks that mean-streak. The hype has driven up his stock and controlled the national narrative. I am seeing labels being thrown on him as a “Generational,” prospect, one went as far as saying he could be the best offensive lineman ever. I am not remotely seeing it on film in the five games I mentioned and if I am not seeing it against those five schools, I can bet I will not magically see it in the NFL either.
He looked better against CAL, but he also had more help on his side against CAL and I question the level of competition he was facing, to begin within that game. Despite his best game I saw being against Standford in 2018, traces of what I am saying showed up in that game as well as against Michigan State too (2018). Sewell’s skill set and techniques are a much better projection to guard than tackle in the NFL. As a guard, his footwork will not be exposed nearly as exposed. He can use his big frame and anchor to protect his gap assignments and he will be able to move into the second level and get out in space with ease.
He would be special as a guard and he would play ten-plus years in the NFL.
As a tackle, he probably will not see a second contract unless he dramatic improvements with his hand and footwork. I would love his size inside at guard. However, there is nothing about him that excites me when I watched the film at tackle. I am not sold.
Daniel Kelly’s Draft Board: Second Round (and move him to guard).
Probability of being a bust: 50-50
If I were a GM, this is the question I need to have answered in my mind about Penei Sewell: I would sit down with my offensive line coach, watch the film and ask that coach how hard it is going to be to correct the hand and footwork issues. I think the handwork will be easier than the footwork.
My Top 7 concerns about Penei Sewell:
- Hand placement on pass pro.
- Footwork in pass pro.
- Body control.
- Does just enough to get by and not generally a finisher.
- Polished speed rushers in the NFL who have a full pass rush arsenal.
- Stunts, games, and blitzes.
- Starting him at LT as a rookie.
How defenders win against him: With moves hardback inside after engaging and getting him committed to playing the backdoor of the perimeter. Hard spin backs, head fakes, and swim moves inside. Challenge him hard through the front and back doors of the pocket. Premiere pass rushers with a full arsenal of pass rush moves will toast Sewell. Athletic speed rushers will cause a lot of problems. Anything that challenges his footwork and ability to recover will be a problem. Send a boatload of stunts and linebackers and safety blitzes on his inside and outside area of responsibility. He was a big fish in a small sea in college – welcome him to the NFL.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.