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Analysis: Is Penei Sewell a Future Hall of Famer?

I give my take on the Detroit Lions selecting the 2019 Outland Trophy winner.

The 2021 NFL Draft is underway, and the first Oregon Duck is off the board. Offensive tackle Penei Sewell was selected seventh overall by the Detroit Lions, becoming the highest-drafted offensive lineman in Oregon history.

Many have said that Sewell is the best offensive lineman in the draft. According to Adam Schefter, one NFL head coach even said that Sewell is “the one surefire Hall of Famer in this draft class.”

The Lions have a history of drafting offensive lineman in the first round; Sewell is the fifth offensive lineman the team has taken in the first round since 2012 (Frank Ragnow - 2018, Taylor Decker - 2016, Laken Tomlinson - 2015, Riley Reiff - 2012).

It's safe to say that Sewell has a chance to be better than those four. It also isn’t a stretch to claim that he is a future Hall of Famer. 

Here’s why.

The Malaeimi, American Samoa, native is the complete package at left tackle, but he has the frame and the talent to play at either tackle spot. At nearly 6’5” and 330 pounds, he can bully defensive linemen at the point of attack and is agile enough to get to the second level.

He ran a 5.09 40-yard dash, but moves much quicker on the football field. Sewell is the best pass-blocking tackle in the draft, as he allowed just one sack in 1,376 snaps in his two-year career. You can’t get much better production than that.

Penei Sewell won the Outland Trophy in 2019 and has been instrumental in rooting Oregon's identity in brutal physicality.

Penei Sewell won the Outland Trophy in 2019 and has been instrumental in rooting Oregon's identity in brutal physicality.

New Lions quarterback Jared Goff should be ecstatic about his team’s selection, but running backs D’Andre Swift, Kerryon Johnson, and Jamaal Williams should be too. Sewell, a unanimous first-team All-American in 2019, will mightily improve a Lions rushing attack that was the third-worst in the league last season (1,499 yards).

Sewell was the anchor behind an Oregon rushing attack that finished second in the Pac-12 (174.9 yards per game) and gashed a Utah defense that was the best in the country at stopping the run in the 2019 Pac-12 Championship Game.

Sewell makes moving 300-pound defensive linemen look effortless. One element of his game that is often overlooked is his ability to sneak past edge rushers and block defensive backs on quick screen plays.

For new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who coached Sewell’s Oregon teammate Justin Herbert as the head coach of the Chargers last season, drawing up quick screens and play action passes should be an exciting slice of the Lions’ offense as it can showcase Sewell’s speed and physicality.

If the Lions can pick up more offensive weapons for Goff in the draft — their leading pass-catchers are currently TJ Hockenson, Tyrell Williams, Quintez Cephus and Geronimo Allison — they could have a dangerous offense under first-year head coach Dan Campbell.

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The Lions have one of the most talented offensive line units in the NFL, consisting of standout left tackle Taylor Decker and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow. Sewell will likely slide into the starting right tackle spot after playing two seasons at left tackle at Oregon.

After opting out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, he should be more than ready to start week one at right tackle. No matter where he plays, Sewell will be a perennial All-Pro candidate and a franchise cornerstone in the Motor City for years to come. 

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