Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz endorsed Oregon tackle Penei Sewell before the 2021 NFL Draft.
So why didn’t the Bengals follow that endorsement? That’s a legitimate question after Cincinnati selected LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the No. 5 overall pick Thursday.
Chase and Sewell will be pitted against each other for the rest of their careers as a result. Sewell spoke with Sporting News as part of a partnership with USAA ahead of the draft, and he heard Munoz’s endorsement.
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“I can’t let that get to my head and be complacent,” Sewell said. “I heard it, and it put a smile on my face and created another motivation. When a greatest of all time at the position says that about me, it gives me the confidence in my mind that I can do my job to the best of my ability.”
Sewell, who allowed just one sack in two seasons at Oregon, was selected by the Lions at No. 7.
Sewell opted out of the 2020 college football season, but that did not affect his draft status. He is one of the safest picks of the first round and Detroit’s fourth offensive line pick in the last seven years.
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“Offensive line is a unique position,” Sewell said. “Everybody has different things that work for them. For me, it was about going through the process and seeing if things work for me and seeing if it fits for me.”
Sewell seemed like the logical pick for the Bengals knowing quarterback Joe Burrow took 32 sacks and suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2020.
Instead, Cincinnati went with Burrow’s favorite target at LSU. Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards (21.2 yards per catch) and 20 touchdowns in 2020. It’s a power move for Burrow to get Chase in Cincinnati, and it could pan out.
Burrow still needs more protection. Cincinnati addressed the offensive line with Riley Reiff in free agency and still has 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams at tackle, and it likely will add depth on Days 2 and 3 of the draft.
Reiff was Detroit’s first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In 2021, the Lions selected a solid offensive lineman to build around new quarterback Jared Goff under first-year coach Dan Campbell. Detroit was expected to take a receiver across most mock drafts. Taking Sewell made more sense, however.
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The role reversal is interesting, and the pick will be questioned if Cincinnati cannot protect Burrow better under third-year coach Zac Taylor in 2021. Did the Lions take advantage of the Bengals passing on Sewell?
That is something to watch in the short term.
If Sewell is who Munoz thinks he is, then it could become a long-term question that keeps coming back at Cincinnati.