It’s been well over a year since former Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell took a live snap, and it will be quite a bit longer until he does so at the next level. Sewell has completed nearly all of the pre-draft processes. The one thing left is hearing his name called on Draft Day.
Sewell is the consensus OT1 off the draft board come April 29. He’s touted, by many, as the best non-quarterback talent in the 2021 NFL Draft class, and it would be a “malpractice,” as ESPN’s Domonique Foxworth explains it, if Sewell fell below the fifth-overall pick to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals need to protect now-second-year quarterback Joe Burrow. They also need to fill their receiving corps, which has led to a contested debate: Does Cincinnati take Sewell at No. 5 or prioritize a wide receiver, say Ja’Marr Chase. Both are key areas of need for teams across the NFL, but the Bengals are in the unique position of getting the talent (and high ceiling) of Sewell—and they need to take it.
Sewell doesn’t have 2020 tape for NFL evaluators to point to, but his performance across two seasons at Oregon has cemented him firmly at the top of the class. He opted out of the 2020 season in early September following the Pac-12’s initial decision to postpone fall sports through the end of the calendar year. When the conference opted to resume play, it gave players who decided to opt-out and turn pro a chance to return. Sewell never did and focused his efforts on the pre-draft process. He fell in love with the process, but the game was always on his mind.
The only semblance of action he’d see until Draft Day was Friday at Oregon’s Pro Day. He needed to impress, or at least remind everyone of the big-bodied, strong presence he is on the offensive line. He was able to show off his agility and speed. The big-bodied tackle recorded an unofficial 7.80 three-cone drill and a 5.09-second 40-yard dash at 331 pounds.
What’s most impressive is he joined an experienced group of offensive linemen at the Ducks program in 2018 and was able to quickly separate himself. He was rarely on the ground and didn't allow more than two quarterback pressures in any of his 21 games, per Pro Football Focus. There are technique and some measurement concerns, particularly regarding Sewell’s arm length, but an NFL team will get a plug-and-play starting left tackle who has a high ceiling and can grow into a player that fortifies an offense for many seasons to come.
In the pass-happy league, protecting the quarterback surpasses any need—other than getting a reliable quarterback to begin with—and Sewell more than effectively fills that need. It would be more than malpractice to see him drop down the draft board.