Oregon’s Penei Sewell Immediately Becomes Detroit’s Cornerstone Piece

Five Oregon Ducks found new homes in the 2021 NFL Draft, headlined by tackle Penei Sewell landing at the Detroit Lions with the seventh overall pick.

First-year Lions GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell made Sewell the foundational piece of a new era in Detroit, where he projects to play right tackle opposite Taylor Decker. Praised by scouts for his length, footwork and elite ability to dominate in both the run and passing game, Sewell immediately upgrades a Lions front that gave up 42 sacks in 2020.

The Lions traded away franchise quarterback Matt Stafford in the offseason, the first step in a long-awaited rebuild. The Bob Quinn regime failed to surround the former No.1 pick with the necessary pieces to compete in the NFC North, which has been largely dominated by the Green Bay Packers in the last decade. The rebuilding Lions sit +2200 with the sportsbooks to win the division in the latest American football odds and could be picking early again in the draft next year.

Following the Stafford trade, which netted Detroit first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, Sewell’s first job will be protecting new quarterback Jared Goff. The five-year veteran took the Rams to a Super Bowl in 2018 but his turnover efficiency cratered in the following two seasons, prompting harsh criticism from his coach Sean McVay. How he copes under center in Detroit, with considerably fewer weapons than he had in LA, may determine his future in the NFL.

With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. lost this offseason in free agency, many mock draft analysts foresaw Holmes and Campbell bolstering the wideout corps with the seventh overall pick. But Sewell was the consensus top lineman in the draft class, widely considered an option for the Cincinatti Bengals at five or the Miami Dolphins at six, and there were jubilant scenes among the Lions backroom staff when he was available at their spot.

While Sewell was considered a no-brainer at seven, the new Lions regime raised some eyebrows in the fanbase by continuing to neglect the wide receiver spot in the second and third round. In fact, they went back to the nose tackle well on two occasions to fortify their interior defense, taking Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike in the second and NC State’s Alim McNeil in the third.

A wideout finally came off the board for the Lions in round four with the addition of Amon-Ra St. Brown from USC. A possession receiver with decent hands but potentially lacking the killer speed of some NFL pass-catchers, St. Brown joins a receiving corps in Detroit that will feature Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams as Jared Goff’s main targets. A journeyman on his fifth team in six years, Perriman had 505 yards for the New York Jets last year, while Western Oregon product Williams missed the 2020 campaign with a shoulder injury.

The Lions have made the playoffs only three times since the turn of the century, losing all three games. Their victory over the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 was their only postseason win since 1957.