The NY Jets will have plenty of options at their disposal in regard to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But while some seem to believe Oregon tackle Penei Sewell is a possible target, drafting him just isn’t a logical option.
This isn’t a knock on Sewell as a prospect — far from it. The standout Pac-12 star was one of the best offensive linemen in college football in 2019 and was widely seen as a future top-five pick.
And even after opting-out of the 2020 season, his draft stock hardly faltered.
At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Sewell has the perfect blend of size, athleticism, and polish that make him one of the best offensive line prospects we’ve seen in years. By all accounts, he projects as a future All-Pro at left tackle.
But the key words there are “left tackle.”
The Jets are a team with weaknesses up and down the roster. But as evidenced in 2020, the position that most held them back was the quarterback position.
Now, this isn’t going to turn into a Sam Darnold debate. But it’s important that we note one thing first.
Darnold’s failures in New York are largely due to his abysmal situation. A poor coaching staff combined with an incompetent supporting cast have contributed to his lack of development.
But there isn’t really a financial or logistical argument to support sticking with him. Not with the options the Jets will have this offseason — Deshaun Watson and the No. 2 overall pick in a stacked quarterback class being at the top of that list of options.
And even for those who may disagree with that, reality will soon set in. Darnold won’t be the Jets’ quarterback in 2021, that much is pretty much a given at this point.
The No. 2 overall pick should be used on a quarterback. But this article is meant to be about Penei Sewell and why, even if the Jets were to stick with Darnold, it wouldn’t make sense to draft him second overall.
Penei Sewell doesn’t make sense for the NY Jets
The 2019 Unanimous All-American is one of the best left tackle prospects we’ve seen come out in years. The only problem is, the Jets already have a left tackle.
Mekhi Becton is one of the few building blocks on the roster and you’d better believe he won’t be switching positions anytime soon. The same goes for Penei Sewell.
Teams don’t draft right tackles second overall. On average, right tackles are paid significantly less and aren’t the same premium position that left tackles are. Sure, the gap has diminished in recent years with star pass-rushers like Khalil Mack and Von Miller primarily rushing against right tackles.
But the Orlando Brown situation is perfect proof of that still-existent divide.
Brown has requested a trade from the Baltimore Ravens with the caveat that he plays left tackle for his new team. The former Oklahoma star has rightfully realized that he won’t fulfill his potential at right tackle nor will he be paid as he should.
That’s just how the financials of the sport work.
If the Jets were to draft Sewell and ask him to move to right tackle, the same issue would arise in a few years when his rookie contract expires. Not to mention, the positional value of selecting a right tackle second overall just doesn’t add up.
The Jets need offensive line help, but their tackle play was actually around average last year. Becton was an above-average starter who flashed All-Pro potential while George Fant was serviceable and likely the team’s second-best offensive lineman.
The interior of the offensive line needs work, but it’s not like the Jets’ offensive line was a complete disaster last season. In fact, the Jets’ offensive line was actually above-average in run-blocking and only slightly below-average in pass protection.
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It isn’t the total trainwreck that some make it out to be. Far and away, the biggest thing that held the Jets’ offense back last season was incompetent quarterback play.
Again, we could sit here and discuss why the quarterback play was incompetent. And it’s very easy to place the blame on everyone but Darnold — and much of that is true.
But the fact of the matter is that Darnold will be on the final year of his rookie deal in 2021. If the Jets were to keep him and pick up his fifth-year option, his 2022 salary would hold a cap hit of $25 million — not too much lower than Watson’s annual cap hit from 2022 on.
Darnold’s age is irrelevant. If he were to succeed at this point, he would become the single greatest statistical outlier in NFL quarterback history.
Betting on his success would be foolish in any year, but especially in a year where the Jets have a chance to reset the rookie clock with a top-tier quarterback prospect or even with someone like Deshaun Watson.
Teams don’t have the second overall pick often. And it’s even rarer that the opportunity presents itself in a year in which you could feasibly have three true QB1-caliber quarterbacks.
That’s not even mentioning the never-before-seen opportunity of landing a player of Watson’s caliber. These opportunities are rare.
If the Jets were to actually hold on to Darnold, the only logical option would be to trade down and accumulate additional draft capital. Drafting Sewell second overall doesn’t make sense for the Jets.
The positional value isn’t there, and the Orlando Brown situation is proof of that.
In the end, this discussion isn’t going to matter. The Jets will trade Darnold to the highest bidder and very likely select his replacement with the No. 2 overall pick.
That isn’t an opinion on what they should do — it’s what they will do.
But Penei Sewell isn’t a realistic target no matter the route the Jets take. He’s a fantastic prospect, but he just doesn’t make sense for the Jets.