So who is the best football player in the country? Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence? Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields?
Nope. At least not according to CBS Sports and Cover3 Podcast host Chip Patterson, who believes Oregon Ducks left tackle and Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell is the best NCAA D1 player. And he’s not wrong.
As Mr. FishDuck pointed out in a previous article, online sportsbook BetOnline has even placed Sewell with odds of a long shot (+6600) Heisman Trophy bid. Wow!
But for fans of Lawrence — a national champion, ’21 early Heisman favorite and projected No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — Patterson’s claim has ruffled feathers.
But before we look at Patterson’s comment, let’s quickly review Sewell’s bona fides. He is the first Polynesian, sophomore and Oregon Duck to win the Outland, a national award to the best interior lineman, offense or defense. In his first two seasons, the sophomore power load allowed just one sack in 1,376 snaps with the Ducks and is a two-time first-team All American (In fact, Sewell did not allow a sack in his first 926 snaps).
Sewell also led the Ducks with 58 knockdowns or “pancake blocks,” putting defenders on their backsides like newborn babies. Last year, the Associated Press named Sewell Pac-12 Co-Offensive Player of the Year. Pro Football Focus awarded Sewell with the highest run-blocking grade in the nation (95.5) and he ranked third in pass blocking. For Sewell, the honors and awards go on and on.
In his “way to early” 2021 NFL draft board, ESPN’s Todd McShay has predicted Sewell will be selected No. 3, coming in just two spots behind Lawrence, who is projected as the top overall draft pick.
Here’s what Patterson said on CBS Sports HQ on May 27, according to 247Sports:
“In two full seasons of starting, his freshman and sophomore seasons, he has allowed just one sack in 1,376 snaps. 1,376 times there’s been a defensive end lined up across from Penei Sewell trying to get to Justin Herbert. Only once have they been successful. I look at Penei Sewell and I see the first-ever true sophomore to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.
“And I think that we might be so lost in the quarterback-ness that is the Heisman Trophy and NFL Draft. We might be missing a generational talent on the offensive line. I do think Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent at quarterback. I think Justin Fields may be the most prolific quarterbacks statistically in all of college football this coming season. But if we’re just talking about the best player, not who is going to win the Heisman Trophy, but the best player, I wanna make sure that I’m beating the drum for Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. Because I don’t know if anyone is as good at their job as he is being a tackle.”
On the other side, Lawrence posted back-to-back seasons with more than 3,000 passing yards (3,280 and 3,665). After leading the Tigers past Alabama 44-26 to claim his first national championship in 2019, the junior signal-caller threw for 36 touchdowns and returned to the title game (Clemson lost to LSU, 42-25).
“There is no one in the country who means more to their team than the junior quarterback,” said Braulio Perez, a sportswriter for Fansided. For Perez, critics dismissal of Lawrence is “getting old.”
“No disrespect to Sewell, who is no doubt a future top two or three pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but the debate starts and ends with Lawrence in this case.”
But can we really compare a 6’6″ 330-pound lineman with a 6’6″ 220-pound quarterback? Doesn’t that seem like apples and oranges? Or a cantaloupe and a kiwi?
It may come down to who gets the snaps for Oregon and how they perform. Will the nation’s best lineman be enough to provide Tyler Shough, Cale Millen, Jay Butterfield or Robby Ashford with enough coverage to execute incoming offensive coordination Joe Moorhead‘s scheme?
The debate may be resolved by who can bring home a national title, or at the very least, which player can help lead their team to the championship game on January 11, 2021, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
But I would not be surprised if Sewell steals the show.
San Diego, CA
Top photo by Kevin Cline
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