The Detroit Lions were slated seventh in the 2021 NFL Draft and were between two options. Should Detroit go offensive line and complete the unit or add a weapon for new quarterback Jared Goff?
Detroit made a splash when they sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams and received Goff in the deal. The Lions could have easily targeted a top wide receiver prospect. Kenny Golladay signed a free-agent deal with the New York Giants and Marvin Jones Jr. will be catching passes from No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville next season. Instead, they had their eyes on beefing up the offensive line further.
There are rumors that Detroit reached out to the Cincinnati Bengals about moving up to No. 5 in hopes of landing Penei Sewell. The Bengals declined and ultimately took Ja’Marr Chase.
The Miami Dolphins followed with Jaylen Waddle and Detroit ran to the podium to put their pick in. They added Sewell, who has a chance to be an anchor on that line for years to come. There are many picks over the course of the first round that can be criticized but this should not be one of them.
Penei Sewell will come in at 20-years-old and make an immediate impact for the Lions. Here are three reasons why this was the best outcome that Detroit could have hoped for from their No. 7 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
3. Sewell is the best offensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft
The first reason is plain and simple. The Lions landed the best player at a position they had their eye on. Sewell was one of the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft for months leading up.
In recent weeks, there were talks of Rashawn Slater grading better than Sewell and he could be the first lineman off the board. This turned out to be false and Sewell was taken seventh. The 6-foot-5, 331-pounder opted out of the 2020 college football season and set his sights on the draft. This did not hurt his draft stock and will not impact his performance next year at the next level.
It is never fair to an incoming player to make extreme assumptions but there are some that think Sewell has what it takes to put on a gold jacket at the end of his career. This is some high praise and something that the Lions are hoping for. For what it is worth, Cleveland Brown legend Joe Thomas was enamored with Sewell and said he reminds him of himself. This is music to a Lions’ fans ears.
Once the Bengals and Dolphins decided to pass, the decision was a no-brainer for the Lions. Penei Sewell was the best player available and had to go in that spot.
2. Bolsters an already-talented offensive line
A team could always use an offensive lineman that is expected to be a next-level talent. The Lions have put some effort and money into building their offensive line. Sewell will join a group that is already strong and he will help take them to the next level entirely.
Sewell will come in and start from day one and it is likely to happen at right tackle. He could play left tackle but the Lions have Taylor Decker there and he is signed through 2024 on a four-year, $60 million deal. Jonah Jackson is still on his rookie deal and manning the left-guard position while center Frank Ragnow is coming off a 2020 season where he was named Second-Team All-Pro. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is at right guard and is also signed through 2024.
With Sewell, the average age for the Lions’ offensive line is 24.4. This is a group of lineman that are under contract and could be together for years. This is important for a team to head back toward success. The Lions have seen an overhaul within the offense and the line continues to improve.
Sewell will only help the offensive line right away when he enters the building. He will be expected to start right away and there is a right-tackle position that has his name on it. This gives the Lions five solid guys across the board that can move some people around.
1. The opportunities for Dan Campbell are endless
The Lions have not had good luck when it comes to head coaches. Is Dan Campbell the right man for the job? That has yet to be seen. One thing we do know is that the first-year head coach, who was named interim head coach of the Dolphins in 2015, will have plenty of options within the offense with this group of lineman.
Detroit will have plenty of chances for their lineman to have one-on-one matchups and it is important to expose those matchups. This is where the offense will be able to find weaknesses in the defense and attack them. This is what a good offensive line can do, both in the run game and the pass.
If Penei Sewell or Decker gain an advantage on the ends outside, the Lions can run outside zone. A strong offensive line is something that can completely change and take over a game. If they are able to expose weaknesses, it is important to stay with the game plan and adjust when needed.
The Lions have been down for a few years now. They have made some big-time changes and improved positions that need it. The offensive line was clearly a focal point and Sewell will just continue the dominance up front.