Before I give you my reasoning, I will say taking Penei Sewell with the #4 pick is what should and will happen if he falls. If Sewell doesn’t make it to the fourth pick, your guess is as good as mine as to what Terry Fontenot will do. Gun to my head, I think they trade back if Sewell isn’t there.
First and foremost, Penei Sewell might be the best player in this entire draft. He is even more of a guarantee than Trevor Lawrence. The Oregon product has a Joe Thomas aurora about him; this from First Pick’s Cory Kinnan — a review of Sewell.
Where doesn’t Sewell win?
A near-perfect prospect, Sewell wins with his hands with frequency, he shows the discipline and focus to land his punch and follow through directly into the chest of his opponent to compromise his base. He packs a powerful initial punch and latch follow through, showing a willingness to finish in the run game to clear running lanes for the likes of C.J. Verdell.
Sewell is a technician below the waist as well, showing a pristine pass set and quick feet. He plays with a wide base and a great initial kick step to put himself in the best position over the man across from him. His feet are always moving, this writer has not seen a rep where Sewell’s feet are not actively churning.
For argument’s sake, we can call Sewell the second-best prospect. That’s okay because it already seems like a forgone conclusion that Trevor Lawrence will be a Jacksonville Jaguar. So, if for some reason, Sewell falls to the Falcons, I fully expect Fontenot to pull the trigger on him. The former Saints’ executive is known for his eye for talent in the trenches, and he made it clear that the best player available approach to the NFL draft is wisest.
Drafting Sewell makes sense in terms of the Falcons’ new general manager’s draft history, draft philosophy, and oh yeah, it addresses a position of need. “BuT wE jUsT dRaFteD tWo oFfeNsiVe LiNeMen!” The draft is for building the future of a team, and free agency is for rounding out rosters. Some would say, selecting Sewell directly contradicts picking two in the first round in the 2019 NFL draft.
However, besides a franchise quarterback, good offensive line play is becoming a rarity in the NFL. If you have a chance to select a Joe Thomas-type that can be a cornerstone left tackle for a decade, you do it. Why would anyone even argue against drafting a potential Hall of Fame-caliber prospect? Oh, because the Falcons already have Jake Mattews (left tackle) and Kaleb McGary (right tackle).
Well, let me simplify the logistics of shuffling the line around. Assuming Fontenot drafts Sewell, you leave Jake Matthews at left tackle. Matthews only has a few years left on his enormous contract. Unless his performance declines, it is best to leave a veteran where he’s comfortable. If his play does begin to wane, kick him inside or over to right tackle, and let Sewell cement himself into place until 2030. Or, when Matthews’ services no longer suit Arthur Smith and Fontenot, cut the long-time Falcon and again move Sewell to left tackle.
But let’s think in the short term — the 2021 season. Simple, let Sewell and McGary compete for the right tackle spot, and whoever loses plays guard. More than likely, the Oregon left tackle will come in and be a day one starter at whichever tackle position he’s needed. McGary moving to the inside is a logical decision. Even before the Falcons drafted him, many expected he might play guard in the NFL.
At guard, McGary would be able to be more aggressive in his pass sets but even more so in the area he thrives in — run blocking. McGary is a mauler; it just makes sense. The starting line could look something like this (from left to right); Jake Matthews, Kaleb McGary, Matt Hennessey, Chris Lindstrom, and Penei Sewell. Imagine Arthur Smith engineering an offensive playbook knowing he can keep his aging quarterback upright and also move almost any defensive line off the ball consistently. That’s a scary thought that the rest of the NFC South does not want to see.