Pro Football Focus has ranked NFL offensive tackles, but are the Detroit Lions’ bookends being disrespected?
The Detroit Lions were elated (and that might be putting it mildly) to draft Penei Sewell No. 7 overall in the 2021 draft. He made it three first-round picks on an offensive line that was lined up to be one of the best in the league.
But as is well-known by now, the Lions never had their projected five starting offensive lineman together for a snap last season. Still, assuming everyone is healthy, they will be one of the best lines in the league in 2022.
Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus has done a ranking of NFL offensive tackles, 1-32, with tiers (Tier 1: “Elite” down to Tier 9: “Solid Starters”).
So where do the Lions bookends come in?
Are the Detroit Lions offensive tackles ranked too low by Pro Football Focus?
All things considered, working at right tackle during OTAs and camp, switching to left tackle when Taylor Decker was injured then switching back again when Decker returned, Sewell had a pretty good rookie season. But he needs more of a resume to reach the upper tier of offensive tackles in the league, as evidenced by his placement in “Tier 6: Young Tackles Trending In The Right Direction.”
19. Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions
Sewell didn’t have the smoothest rookie season imaginable. He started the preseason at right tackle — a positional change from his time spent on the left side at Oregon — before kicking back to fill in at left tackle for an injured Taylor Decker to start the year. Then, once Decker returned, Sewell started the final eight weeks of the season back at right tackle. He impressed there, ending the year with an 81.4 PFF grade at right tackle that ranked fifth among qualifiers at the position.
Sewell is still just 21 years old, and another offseason with some positional continuity should only help him rise up these rankings as he enters his second season.
What about Decker? He’s in “Tier 7: Good Starters.”
22. Taylor Decker, Detroit Lions
You don’t want to make a habit of asking top-10 draft picks to change positions once they get to the NFL, but the Lions made that decision with Penei Sewell because of Decker’s track record at left tackle since the Lions drafted him in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Decker has earned PFF grades above 75.0 in four of his six NFL seasons, including each of the last three years.
Decker may not be in the Pro Bowl conversation every year, but he is an important part of Detroit’s efforts to rebuild their roster through the trenches.
To be totally fair, the Lions are one of few teams with both of their offensive tackles in the top-25 on the list. And if Decker had any Pro Bowl recognition, it seems he’d be a few tiers higher–like “Tier 4: Very Good Starters”. Looking at that tier, maybe he should be there anyway.
Ultimately, with the need to see more from Sewell and Decker flying under the radar, the Lions’ starting offensive tackles are probably properly ranked here. But Detroit is in good shape at two important spots on the field, that much is clear.