After months of anticipation, it finally happened. The Detroit Lions made their pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and staying at seventh overall, they selected Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.
Player selected: Penei Sewell
Current players on roster at OT:
- Taylor Decker
- Tyrell Crosby
- Matt Nelson
- Dan Skipper
- Halapoulivaati Vaitai (?)
Offseason losses at OT:
The left side of the offensive line was a strength for the Lions in 2020, one of their few in a tumultuous season. With Taylor Decker at tackle, Jonah Jackson at guard, and Frank Ragnow at center, there was a lot to be excited about for that side, and they delivered.
The right, meanwhile, was a bit more chaotic. Halapoulivaati Vaitai was signed to a massive five-year, $50 million deal by Bob Quinn last offseason, a player meant to replace Rick Wagner as a dependable anchor on the right side. However, injuries plagued Vaitai, forcing a shift inside to right guard. Tyrell Crosby, the long-time swing tackle, stepped in and performed decently, but he wasn’t a game changer.
Insert another Oregon Duck. Sewell should immediately step into a starting role for Detroit, but the question is where. Sewell was a left tackle at Oregon, and a highly regarded prospect at that. Switching sides of the offensive line can prove challenging, and it might be ideal to play Sewell at his natural position. However, this would come at the expense of Taylor Decker. Decker will be heading into his sixth NFL season, and a switch from the left to right could prove to be a gamble for Detroit. Having been given a five-year, $70.35 million deal just last year, Decker figures to be a focal point of the offensive line going forward. Do you play your rookie at the position he’s most familiar with and move your veteran tackle? The Lions have a tough decision to make. Either way, Sewell should be a force for the offensive line.
Meanwhile, this all but confirms that Halapoulivaati Vaitai will play guard. With a contract like that, it will make people wonder why the Lions did not simply re-sign Graham Glasgow, but the mistakes of the past regime should not hinder the current regime. At best, Vaitai can rebound and develop into a solid guard, forming one of the best offensive lines in the league. At worst, he struggles and 2020 fourth-round pick Logan Stenberg takes over. Should that happen, it could mark the end of Vaitai’s time in Detroit. Crosby figures to return to backup duties, but he has shown that he can be relied on in a pinch. Who knows, he could even be a trade asset at the deadline next season for a team needing a stopgap.