Are Scouts SERIOUSLY Second Guessing Penei Sewell?

Joshua Whitted Editorials 21 Comments

NFL scouts have a difficult job. They spend countless hours studying film, conducting interviews and doing research on hundreds of draft prospects. Even then, after all of their legwork, some of the most respected scouts miss on their evaluations fairly often. Sometimes, finding future NFL talent is little more than a guessing game.

However, once in a blue moon, a prospect with essentially no “bust potential” enters the fold. These surefire prospects are a scout’s dream, as such players are a quick and easy evaluation and projection. Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell is one of these surefire prospects, and for much of the offseason, it had been assumed that he was a lock to be a top-five draft pick at worst. But apparently, some don’t even view him as the top offensive tackle in the 2021 class.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller tweeted that a number of NFL scouts (not himself) have questions about Sewell’s game and don’t necessarily have him as the best offensive tackle in the class at this time. Miller listed other prospects, including Stanford’s Walker Little, Texas’s Samuel Cosmi and North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz as candidates to be drafted ahead of Sewell according to these anonymous scouts.

The fact that scouts are even entertaining the idea of another offensive tackle being taken ahead of Sewell is absurd. Sewell is the best offensive tackle in college football by a landslide, and he’s in his own league as a draft prospect. Any scout that has him ranked behind another offensive tackle needs to re-watch the tape, because Sewell’s speaks for itself.

What the Scouts Are Saying

According to Miller, the scouts who are questioning Sewell have concerns about his play strength and lack of length. Those are two data points that scouts often reference when identifying elite offensive tackles, and admittedly, they have a reason to do so.

With edge rushers in the NFL taking many different forms, the best offensive tackles are strong enough to anchor pass rushers that attempt to bull rush them, and they’re long enough to keep lanky pass rushers away from their chest. In terms of prototypical physical attributes, Stanford’s Walker Little checks about all of the boxes.

From Twitter

Little has the look of a prototypical blindside blocker.

By all accounts, Little has plenty of length to go with his 6’7”, 320-lb. frame, which allows him to stymie athletic pass rushers with ease. And though he’s not a mauler, most scouting reports indicate that he has enough strength and power to hold his own against bull rushers and clear space in the run game. Cosmi and Radunz also appear to have the edge over Sewell in arm length, although both come with some concerns of their own regarding play strength.

As for Sewell, these anonymous scouts aren’t entirely off base in their criticism of his game. His lack of length is apparent, at least in comparison to these other top tackle prospects, and his anchor strength has been listed as a (very minor) concern by others. 

But that’s the only thread of validity in the ludicrous hot take that Sewell isn’t the undisputed top tackle in the draft class. Sewell’s minute flaws absolutely pale in comparison to the multitude of things that he does better than anyone else in college football (like actually blocking opposing defenders), and those flaws should in no way open the door for far less accomplished prospects to take his place as offensive tackle No. 1 on draft boards.

Sewell Is Far and Away the Best Offensive Tackle Prospect

The primary job of an offensive tackle is to block the player in front of him. Since he set foot on the field as a 17-year-old freshman, no one in college football has done that better than Sewell.

From Twitter

No one has come close to matching Sewell’s production.

As a freshman, Sewell set a new record as the highest-graded freshman offensive tackle since Pro Football Focus began grading college games. How did he follow that up? He set a new record as the highest-graded offensive tackle ever in his sophomore season, earning the top offensive grade in the country, regardless of position.

Sewell graded as easily the best run blocker in the country in 2019, with a 95.7 run-blocking grade. His alleged lack of play strength didn’t seem to matter a bit, as there was no player who even came close to his ability to consistently move bodies in the run game and clear lanes for tailback CJ Verdell, who averaged more than six yards per carry. In fact, Sewell not only led all players in run-blocking grade, but he also led the country in PFF’s “big-time block” metric, which are the highest-graded blocks that a player can earn.

Sewell might not be the strongest tackle in the game, but winning in the run game isn’t primarily about strength. Especially with today’s zone-heavy rushing attacks, good run blockers need to be athletic so that they can quickly get in front of defenders and to the second level. Then, they have to rely on technique and proper positioning to gain leverage and clear the defender out of the lane. The mauling, road-grading tackles of yesteryear don’t have the movement skills to survive in today’s game.

Kevin Cline

Despite scouts’ concerns, Sewell is a punishing run blocker.

Luckily, Sewell is a rare athlete at 330 lbs., and his movement skills for his size are unrivaled. This allows him to make punishing blocks as if he was a far stronger player, as he gets up to full speed quickly, and his momentum creates plenty of force at the point of impact.

As far as pass protection goes, Sewell’s lack of length hasn’t been an issue in the slightest. He graded as an elite pass protector in 2019, despite having to face some of the toughest pass rushers in the country (Wisconsin, Auburn and Utah each had ferocious pass rushes in 2019). Just like in the run game, his superior athleticism and agility allow him to get in front of event he quickest pass rushers. Athleticism on the edge is just as, if not more important than length, and Sewell has clearly shown that he has no problem hanging with dynamic pass rushers, even if he lacks a 6’7” frame.

Penei Sewell is the best offensive tackle in the country and the competition isn’t close. The proof is in the pudding, as no player has come close to actually blocking the opposing defender better than Sewell has over the past couple of seasons. Although traits like length and play strength are important, they shouldn’t be prioritized over consistent, dominant, top-level production, and that’s exactly what Sewell has shown throughout his entire career.

So, here’s a note to every NFL scout who’s second guessing Oregon’s star left tackle. Pass on Sewell at your own risk.

Joshua Whitted
Morgantown, West VirginiaTop Photo by Kevin Cline

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Quackanadian

Penei’s game vs Auburn, recall his first as a sophomore and had an injury the previous year, is outstanding. That Auburn line was loaded as well all know. Experts are always talking about length and measurables, but can never “measure” the intangibles.

Wayne Gretzky was a skinny, frail, shrimp. Dominated.

Mike Jordan? Not exactly the biggest and the fastest. Dominated.

Tom Brady? Half of Montana’s arm and half of Manning’s (not Eli) talent. Dominated.

Conor McGregor? Look at him in street clothes. Dude would wreck most any competition despite hight and size.

Ed Coan, world’s greatest power lifter of all time. Usually 30 or 40 lbs lighter than his competition and blew them all away.

It isn’t always all about size, speed, and skill and the testable stuff at combines. Play the games. Let the performance do the talking.

Cheers.

Last edited 4 months ago by Quackanadian
Charles Fischer

Darn right Joshua, as Penei is a future multi-year All-Pro and HOF member. Somehow his strength is enough to move a 333 lb. Nose Tackle from his position, a player who will be across the LOS from Sewell in the NFL eventually. (click on the photo below)

Penei Sewell blocks down and Verdell cuts off of it_Tom Corno.jpg
Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Fischer
David Marsh

Sewell also has great technique… This results in consistent blocking but the other thing too is that he rarely gets called for a penalty. Keeping false starts and holds to a minimum is vital to ensuring the offense doesn’t end up behind the chains. Sewell doesn’t hurt his team.

Furthermore, solid technique and good leverage means that one can get away with joy being as strong as their opponents as it’s really hard to beat good technique AND better leverage.

So often we see highly ranked recruits sit a year and technique is a major aspect of that. So many highly ranked kids are just bigger, faster, stronger than their high school opponents that they can simply overpower them with a lacking technique. Sewell started as a true freshman and his technique was impeccable then and it has only improved since.

30Duck

I of course understand that the author is Joshua; sorry!

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Fischer
Gizmoduck

Great article Joshua. Doubters are a great fuel for elite competitors, which Sewell is. More than his physical traits, or even his on field skills, it’s his desire to be great that sets him apart in my opinion. How do I know? It’s consistently the thing his coaches spout each time they are asked about him. Mario Cristobal is very good at keeping his composure when describing players so as not to create a false image of that player. Just listen to when he talks about Peneii, it’s almost fanboyish! The kid is for real and these so called doubters will see, as soon as he is on the field what “play strength” and “length” he has. I love this site!

Brent Pennington

The “Gift” + Desire (unrelenting effort) = Penei Sewell. Just do the math.

Haywarduck

Agree with Mr Joseph, but this assessment is about a family member. It is one thing to see scouts make the mistake of pushing teams to draft Trubisky over Watson, but when it a Duck, it gets our ire up.

Jon Joseph

AMEN!

30Duck

Thanks for this, Justin, as Jon & BDF pointed out, the old adage is true, “the problem with opinions? Everybody has one” Sometimes it is a true, honest belief that their opinion while contrary is true, and sometimes evaluators just don’t want to follow the pack, especially if they can do so anonymously.

BigDucksFan

Yep, controversy causes interest. Writers love it.

BigDucksFan

As Jon points out and we have seen so much in the NFL draft, scouting is a game of misdirection. Just look at the misdirection we saw last year in regards to Justin at the QB position. What scouts say in front of the “camera’s” is one thing and what they say in the teams back room, on draft day, is another.

We see that all the time in politics, but we won’t go there. All I know is Penei Sewell is the best.

Jon Joseph

Some of these scouts look at an orange long enough and convince themselves that it is really a grapefruit.

Thus, Mitch Trubisky over DeShaun Watson.

Some of this ‘stuff’ may simply go with having to justify the job? After all, if you ask a consultant to investigate how to improve efficiency at your company what is he going to say?

‘After weeks of diligent investigation by my team and I, we are happy to report that your business is perfectly run. Thank you for the opportunity. That will be $250,000.00 please.’

Also, many of these rumored downgrades are gamesmanship; maybe you ought to think twice about taking this guy so he falls into our lap.

In Penei we trust.

Thanks Joshua.

David Marsh

Scouts are in the end human and they want to see what they want to see. Part of it I think is also driven by the desire to convince themselves and their fan bases that what they can get is better.

Simply put only 5 teams get a shot at top 5 talent … Those teams are also usually bad because that’s the way the draft works… So for the majority of NFL teams Sewell isn’t an option… So why not try and convince yourself that what you get is “better”…

Or again they are just humans and are free to make bad decisions. I wish I was paid a lot to make bad choices. Instead I’ll just settle for board games and video games where I can make my own bad decisions in my spare time.

30Duck

David, you nailed it. Scouts must have their own beliefs, or their profession would be rendered inert. It’s great to look back in all sports and check out how the scouting looked; that 6th round QB pick by the Patriots turned out okay.