First off let me say, I really liked the Lions selection of Penei Sewell. I think often when people say they would have preferred another path, others misinterpret that to mean they don’t like the path that was chosen. That’s not at all the case. Sewell is going to be a stud, play in multiple Pro Bowls, and potentially have a Hall of Fame career. I feel similarly about Sewell as I did about Frank Ragnow back in 2018. Frank has lived up to my expectations for sure, becoming an All-Pro C already by just his 3rd season.
As good as Sewell is, I think that I would have gone in a different direction here. Not because Sewell is not an outstanding prospect, but just because I view team building a bit differently than maybe some. Let me outline my train of thought:
- Not ready to call Sewell “generational” quite yet –
My caveat here is that pre-Draft I have only watched 4 games of Sewell. By the time I do my full Draft breakdown for the Lions I will probably have about 10 games of film analyzed and feel more confident about my projection. But 3-4 games is usually enough for you to have a “strong opinion, weakly held”. Based off what I saw on tape, Sewell is an elite OT prospect, but not quite generational. I think that term comes up because his combination of movement skills and raw power is so amazing. His mobility and power absolutely jump out on tape. He’s an easy mover that generates a lot of torque. And his statistics as an offensive lineman are outstanding as well. But I think stopping your evaluation of any player at just athletic traits and stats is setting yourself up for a very hollow analysis.
Sewell’s balance is not as elite as you would think considering his mobility. And while his technique in the pass game was superb, in the run-game he got sloppy sometimes. His pad level and hand placement were a little all over the place. The inconsistency in his pad level, hand placement and balance and the fact he does not have elite length (only 33 inch arms) means he falls a little short of generational to me. For me he’s in the ballpark of Jedrick Wills (who was my OT1 last year) who came out last year and went 10th overall to CLE. I would probably have Sewell a bit higher than Wills but not approaching the Trent Williams, Tyron Smith, Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden level of guys, which is what I think of when I hear generational. It’s not to say he can’t be as good or better than those guys. But we are talking about them as prospects.
2. Jaycee Horn IS a generational talent.
I believe there were only 4 generational talents in this Draft. Trevor Lawrence, Jamarr Chase, Kyle Pitts and Horn. In that order. Let’s start with the physical tools. Kent Lee Platte has an analytics model widely used in the Draft Community called Relative Athletic Score. It calculates the athletic ability and physical traits of a prospect in relation to all other draft prospects historically going back to 1987. Here was Horn’s score:
Fam. Over THIRTY FOUR years and 1790 CBs, Horn ranks 2nd (SN: #1 All-Time is Steelers/Ravens Hall of Famer Rod Woodson). We don’t even have to talk about the tools. He’s big, strong, fast, long. If you designed a CB in a laboratory they would be Horn. But that’s just the tools. Check out the resume (just watch from 0-33 seconds for the list but I recommend the whole video):
That CRAZY list of current and soon to be NFL wide receivers is made all the more impressive by the following stat:
Bruh. He’s ridiculous. The tape backs it up. His technique was raw when he first got to South Carolina but was impeccable in 2020. He pops on tape. His speed, physicality, length, strength, agility, fluidity and football IQ leap off the screen. When you watch a lot of tape, grinding for the Draft, you kind of get accustomed to how humans move on the field. And then you see a guy that absolutely stands out on the field with their movement skills and technique. That’s Horn. Is he perfect ? No. He can get a little grabby, which is funny because he often doesn’t even need to. He’s in phase and just puts his hands on receivers cause he can. That will be an easy fix though. He reminds me a ton of Jalen Ramsey who had the same concerns. If somebody argued that Horn was the best player in the draft, I would firmly and resolutely disagree, but I wouldn’t think they were crazy.
3. Lions have to play Sewell at RT
Taylor Decker is a Lions veteran and just signed a massive deal. He will be the Lions LT for the foreseeable future. While RT is still a valuable position (4th most important on offense to me after QB, LT, WR1) it does not require the absolute pinpoint precision you require from a blindside protector. Thus, there are guys who don’t have the elite traits necessary to be a LT but can thrive at RT, that are found in the 2nd or 3rd rounds quite often. The fact we have a LT and are going to be somewhat wasting Sewell’s gifts at RT make this more of a luxury pick for me. The irony is that Sewell is probably better than Decker at LT (and Decker would be an elite RT, right now he’s just an above average LT) but after that contract, no way is Decker switching sides.
4. This draft is bursting at the gills with Tackles
This is not a great draft, a little below average overall especially once you get to the 4th round. But it is absolutely loaded at tackle. There are guys that can be long term starters that you can find late on Day 2 and maybe early on Day 3 depending on how the board falls. It’s why teams like the Colts and Steelers who badly need tackles didn’t take one on Day 1. It’s why the Ravens, after trading away their All-Pro RT (who wanted to play LT and get LT money btw, so let’s watch and make sure we don’t have the same issue with Sewell in 3-4 years) didn’t take one on Day 1 either despite having two picks. There was value to be had in rounds 2 and 3 at RT, and we could have found a great player there (not as good as Sewell of course) AND have Jaycee Horn. Teven Jenkins, Dillon Radunsz, Sam Cosmi, Liam Eichenberg, D’Ante Smith, Jalen Mayfield, Spencer Brown, Walker Little, James Hudson, and a host of other talented tackles are still on the board. The CB market is not as kind in round 2. Tyson Campbell, Kelvin Joseph, and Asante Samuel all have good talent but their own set of glaring question marks as well. I’ll feel better though if we get one of those 3.
5. I thought the Saints and Rams built their defenses from the back forward
I thought Horn had a shot based on how the Rams and Saints have built their defenses off of elite man to man corners who can play on an island. The Rams with Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams have two top 10 corners that anchor their defense. Ditto the Saints with Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. The Lions maybe have that in Jeff Okudah, if he thrives in the new scheme (I think he will) but I’m not sure if Amari Oruwariye will become that secondary lock down corner. Perhaps he will, or maybe it will be Quinton Dunbar (who was a really strong and underrated signing made by Brad Holmes this offseason). I’m expecting Holmes, Dan Campbell, and Aaron Glenn won’t stray too far from their roots and will add a corner on Day 2 to bolster that room.
……. I just wish it had been Horn on Day 1.
But I’m happy to have Penei in the Honolulu Blue nonetheless ! Go Lions !