The Cincinnati Bengals were a frisky team during the 2020 season, led by former Heisman-winning quarterback and #1 overall pick Joe Burrow during his rookie season. Fans, media members, and experts did not expect much from the Bengals coming in, considering they have been on a constant decline over the last few seasons. The team finished the season 4-11-1, but they were much more competitive than their record indicates.
One of the most glaring deficiencies of the 2020 Cincinnati Bengals was poor offensive line performance. Burrow often had to scramble for his life and eventually went down for the season with a torn ACL.
Burrow saw production from Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd during his rookie campaign and could use another receiver, but it’s clear the Bengals’ biggest need is on the offensive line as draft day approaches.
My heart is telling me the Bengals will select Burrow’s former favorite target and LSU teammate, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, but my head is telling me they will have a chance to select Oregon tackle, Penei Sewell. In all honesty, they have no business passing up on the clear-cut best offensive line prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. I’m bringing this article to you ahead of Oregon’s pro day, which takes place on Friday, April 2nd. That event will mark the final opportunity for Sewell to solidify himself as the top offensive line prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Meet The Prospect
Penei Sewell stands at a towering 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 325 lbs (pre-pro day figures). The first thing I noticed when watching Sewell’s film is that he does not discriminate. Whether it be a defensive back, linebacker, or lineman, it doesn’t matter; Sewell will find a way to get to defenders. Sewell possesses the size, athleticism, and footwork of an NFL lineman. Even though the 2019 Outland Trophy winner decided to opt out of the 2020 college football season, he is a sure-fire first-round pick and I would be very surprised to see him fall past this draft slot.
In the clip above, examine how quickly Sewell is able to execute this trap move, get to the second level, and take the middle linebacker out of the play. Sewell did his job, however, Oregon running back CJ Verdell did not. Below you’ll see a highlight reel that shows some of Sewell’s best plays during his two-year collegiate career.
The manner in which he is able to get into space and take on linebackers and defensive backs on screen or trap assignments is truly impressive. Sewell’s athleticism is what helps him stand out as the #1 offensive lineman prospect. Matching that physical ability with his size, ability to hand fight, keep pass rushers at bay, and create holes for his running backs have the 20-year-old poised for a promising NFL career.
Penei’s Last Season (2019, Sophomore)
As previously alluded to, Sewell opted out of the 2020 season when the Pac-12 announced there would be no fall sports. Sewell stuck to his decision even after the Pac-12 decided they would play a shortened football season.
Although 2019 marked just his second season in Eugene, it was more of a question about which accolades Sewell didn’t take away from the 2019 season. For starters, Sewell was named Outland Trophy award winner, an honor annually bestowed upon the nation’s best offensive lineman. Sewell made 13 All-American lists, he was named to both the Coaches and Media All-Pac-12 teams, and also took home Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week honors four times.
His accolades from 2019 aren’t done yet, however. Sewell made the Pac 12 Team of the Week nine times and the PFF Team of the Week 6 times. He finished the season with a 95.5 Overall Grade from PFF, which was good for the highest score for an offensive lineman in PFF History. Statistically, Sewell allowed zero sacks, only 7 pressures, and two QB hits during his sophomore season.
Sewell earned respect and recognition from all his teammates, coaches, fans, and the media over the course of his short college career. But will Sewell be able to leave that same impression in the minds of the Bengals’ front office and coaching staff? That remains to be seen, but he is the clear-cut safest pick at #5 and would be able to provide an instant impact on an offensive line that lacked production last season.
Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor will be in attendance, as he should be, at Sewell’s pro day.
Be on the lookout tomorrow for who we think will come off the board at the #6 overall pick in the 2021 On Tap Sports Net NFL Mock Draft! If you’re looking for analysis on picks 1-4, you can find all of those articles right here.