NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2020. This is the second in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.
I spent a lot of time studying former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. While poring over Herbert's tape, I couldn't help but be impressed by his left tackle, Penei Sewell. We call that scan-scouting. Sometimes you notice those flashes of greatness from others while studying a certain prospect, but once you really focus on the player who flashed -- on every single play -- the shine wears off. That wasn't the case with Sewell. After putting him under the microscope, I came away even more impressed! Here are my notes from my initial scouting report on the Oregon junior.
Height, weight: 6-foot-6, 330 pounds (school measurements).
Game tape watched: Auburn (Aug. 31, 2019), Stanford (Sept. 21, 2019), USC (Nov. 2, 2019).
What I liked: Sewell has ideal size, quickness and power for the position. In the passing game, he's quick out of his stance and does a nice job of staying square against his opponent. He's a knee-bender and rarely lunges or loses his balance. He has extremely strong hands to lock on and steer edge rushers. He's very aware versus games/stunts and if he's free, he looks for work (nasty knockdowns).
In the run game, Sewell consistently gets underneath defenders, uproots and moves them off the line of scrimmage. He excels when he's pulling or working up to the second level, and he gets there in a hurry. The 2019 Outland Trophy winner (best interior lineman) also collects plenty of knockdowns against second- and third-level defenders. He's effective on combo blocks, too, working with the guard. I love his overall demeanor and toughness.
Where he needs to improve: There aren't many flaws in Sewell's game. He had a very good battle against the talented Auburn defensive line in last year's season opener, winning the majority of his one-on-one matchups. However, Derrick Brown -- the seventh overall pick in this year's draft -- did beat him a couple of times. On those plays, Sewell's hands were too wide and Brown was able to get control of Sewell's chest to knock him back. Outside of those couple plays, though, his hand placement was excellent. That's about all I can criticize in his play. He was solid in every other area of importance at the position.
Biggest takeaway: My favorite play from the three games I studied was an interception thrown by Herbert in the first quarter against USC. Why? Well, Sewell began the play by recognizing a zone pressure. The edge rusher over his face dropped into coverage. Sewell immediately realized he was freed up and collected a decleating knockdown on another rusher. After the ball was picked off by Trojans safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, Sewell closed the space, broke down and made a textbook tackle. This play showed off his awareness, toughness and athleticism. I loved it!
He reminds me of: Taylor Lewan coming out of Michigan. Both of them have ideal frames and play with a nasty temperament. Sewell plays with more power, while Lewan was a little more athletic adjusting in space. Lewan has proven to be one of the league's best offensive tackles when he's dialed in and focused, making the Pro Bowl in three of his six seasons. I see the same potential for Sewell.