When the Detroit Lions selected Oregon Ducks offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, it sent shockwaves throughout the One Pride fanbase. A brief view of the atmosphere surrounding the team’s draft room amongst the front office staff after the pick was made quite well illustrates the excitement of landing a young elite cornerstone tackle who is perceived and expected to be one of the leaders of the franchise for years to come.
The 20-year old American Samoan, Sewell, whose family relocated to the Utah area prior to his enrolment at Oregon college, plays with a level of aggressiveness and grit that creates havoc for opposing defenses. Prior to his decision to opt-out of the 2020 college football season, Sewell only allowed one sack against opposing defenses in the entire 2018 and 2019 seasons combined.
Despite choosing to sit out last year and being the second-youngest prospect in the 2021 NFL draft pool, many teams and scouts around the league still regarded Sewell to be the top offensive lineman amongst all candidates, by far. When you take a look at the highlights that provided the basis for that recognition, it truly is hard to dispute.
As for where he seemingly fits within the plans for the new Lions coaching regime, the fearless and dominating tackle serves as the perfect personality and locker room influence that will reinforce the team’s intended cultural shift to being tough and frightful. On draft day, Sewell declared that he was ready to put his equipment on and run through bodies; while Lions head coach Dan Campbell was exuberant in his praise of Sewell stating that it is not common to find an athlete of his size and temperament that can play tough, nasty, and protect the quarterback the way that he does best.
Historically, in the modern era of the draft, the only lineman to be taken in a higher position than Sewell by the Lions franchise was seven-time Pro Bowler Lomas Brown who was chosen by the team with the sixth pick of the 1985 NFL draft. Nevertheless, it seems like the foundation of the Lions’ o-line is now solidified as the team has opted to use three of their last five first-round draft picks on an offensive lineman.
Sewell will be joining the likes of Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow on the front line, both of whom were selected with first-round picks by the Lions in the 2016 and 2018 drafts respectively. Coming off of a Pro Bowl year in 2020 and a recent contract extension, Ragnow will be an instrumental mentor and line partner for the youthful Sewell to learn from and grow with during the coming seasons.
Schematically, the recent Lions OTA activities have supported claims made by analysts that the team will choose to transition Sewell into playing the right tackle position as that is their most gaping hole on the front line. While the coaching staff is confident that he will seamlessly and effectively make the move, Sewell himself recently expressed that the shift to the right tackle position will definitely take time to adjust to and compared it to writing full-speed with your off-hand.
While he didn’t play at the right tackle role during any of his years at Oregon, Sewell was highly skilled and effective at the position in his high school days which garnered him national attention as a college prospect. Building on a competitive football background that not many hail from, the 2019 Unanimous All-American selection is the nephew of two former NFL players and also has three brothers that play at the collegiate level.
Since the selection, a few weeks back, countless influencers both within and outside of the Lions circle have been effusive in their praise of the team’s selection of Penei Sewell. While the team was more than elated with his availability at the seventh pick, a number of analysts were shocked that he fell that far down the draft board.
Regardless of that fact, if you are a part of the One Pride, and a believer that history seems to repeat itself, all signs are pointing to the notion that this pick has tremendous upside. For the Detroit Lions faithful, it is duly welcomed that things start treading in that proper direction.