In our series of positional breakdowns in the 2021 NFL Draft, we'll talk about offensive tackles.
As far as this offensive tackle group in the 2021 NFL Draft goes, the top three stacks up favorably compared to what we had last year. In fact, this year's top seven or eight in the 2021 NFL Draft is probably as good as I have seen.
I will deal with the individual prospects in detail here. But as a general overview, I have numbers one to three as the top 15 overall prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. There is a chance the top eight names will all land in my top 40.
However, the talent level drops off dramatically once you get past the first 13-14 names or so. So there could be a massive run on the position from the latter half of the first round in the 2021 NFL Draft through the second.
Without further ado, let's get started with the top ten NFL Draft prospects in offensive tackle.
#1 NFL 2021 Draft Prospect: Penei Sewell (Oregon)
6’ 5”, 325 pounds; JR
A consensus five-star recruit, Penei Sewell immediately earned the starting gig at left tackle and was on his way to having one of the best freshman seasons for anybody I have seen at the position. But he missed the latter half of the campaign and returned at less than full strength for the Ducks’ bowl game against Michigan State.
In year two, the 2021 NFL Draft prospect was already arguably the best overall offensive lineman in the country, earning first-team All-American honors. He would have probably been the first one off the board in a strong 2020 group if he were eligible. Yet, now he is still at the top of the board for most people out there after sitting out his junior year due to COVID019.
Right off the bat, the athletic profile of Sewell gives him Hall of Fame potential. He is a dominant blocker in that zone run game, working off combo-blocks and engulfing linebackers at the second level. Oftentimes, the 2021 NFL Draft prospect is able to deliver a good bump on down-lineman and then have the mobility and quickness in his lower body to get hands on the backer in very unfavorable settings.
His absurd mobility is displayed when he is asked to execute skip-pulls. But the 2021 NFL Draft prospect is more consistent in his ability to scoop-block defenders in the B-gap on wide zone plays, where he really pulls that outside foot to the far hip of the man. Because of that, you see three-techniques and linebackers take much flatter angles than they usually would. They try not get scooped or sealed so that Sewell is not able to transition and ride them to create cutback opportunities.
On the front side of those plays, the 2021 NFL Draft prospect has no issues in terms of getting to the outside edge of 7-techniques or even further away and seal them inside. But I have also seen Sewell set that first wide step for reach-blocks and the edge defender instantly realizes that and shoots the B-gap.
But the 2021 NFL Draft prospect still has those long arms to grab the near pad and pin the man inside to allow the ball-carrier to get out to the edge anyway. However, he is far from just a finesse blocker, as he brings plenty of oomph at initial contact. Oftentimes he can uproot B-gap defenders in more vertical schemes, while doing a good job of attacking the near half of edge guys on down-blocks to establish a wall-off position and then at times drive them close to the sideline.
In the pass game, the 2021 NFL Draft prospect has truly special feet to match twitchy rushers, and he is such an easy mover. There are certainly some refinements that need to be made to his technique in his sets – which I’ll get to in the next paragraph. But he can get himself into a position to engage and mirror with the best of them.
Sewell has that inside hand ready to take steam off anybody slanting hard into the B-gap or possibly pick them up. Even when he is late to recognize twists, he has quick feet and hip mobility to recover anyway. If he does see that his man is the first to cross, he gives that guy a good shove to make the job easier for the guard next to him.
Penei Sewell is so explosive out of his stance that he can get to wide alignments and initiate contact on play-action with very aggressive angles and rarely ever whiff. And in the screen game, his athleticism can really shine, as he uses swim-moves to release and then put DBs on their backs.
Something that is just mind-boggling to watch for me is when he actually seals wide nines or splits the difference backers (OT to slot) on swing screens or takes out slot defenders on tunnel screens. He only surrendered eight total pressures on 215 pass-pro snaps in 2018. As a true sophomore, he finished with the PFF’s highest grade among all offensive linemen at only 19 years old, with just two hits on the QB on almost 500 pass-blocking snaps.
In terms of his negatives, when Sewell is away from the point of attack and is asked to just seal his man, he can get a little lazy. And he is guilty of overextending at times when trying to put hands on targets in space. However, his bigger technical issues are in pass-pro, where he tends to shoot his first punch before his man is actually in range for engaging proper contact. and he ends up catching rushers while getting way too tall.
The 2021 NFL Draft Prospect also picks up that inside foot way too much when he doesn’t need to at all. Overall, for me, there is too much bobbing rather than stepping and sliding, and he doesn’t make great use of his length to keep rushers at bay and force them to take wider angles. And there just weren’t a ton of true drop-backs in that Oregon offense anyway because of how much they ran the ball and how horizontal the passing attack was.
As one can see, other than wanting to be a little more aggressive when he isn’t directly at the point of attack, the problems with Sewell are all technical ones that can be fixed with proper coaching.
This guy dominated as a 19-year old and still has room to grow in terms of learning the intricacies of the position. I have been following the NFL Draft for about a decade now and have studied it in-depth for the latter half of it.
Penei Sewell is the best OT prospect in the NFL Draft I have ever seen.