Offensive tackle Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa didn't leave anything to the imagination when asked at the NFL Combine which NFL linemen have a playing style he admires.
Former Michigan star Taylor Lewan, a 2014 first-round draft pick by the Tennessee Titans and a three-time Pro Bowler, was on his list.
"He's a nasty-edge player," Penning said. "He's going to make the defense feel it.
"You can't go out there and be Mr. Nice. You have to let them know what's coming. That's how football's meant to be played.
"It's meant for big, tough guys like myself."
The Detroit Lions coaching staff got a good look at Penning at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. The Lions coached the American team.
Penning played on the National team and was involved in a number of flareups in practice drills after the whistle.
Penning was a late bloomer in high school. That kept him from being recruited by major schools.
"I look back at some of the pictures I had," he said. "I was only 210 as a junior (in high school). I was talk, skinny, with no muscle on me."
View photos of the top offensive linemen prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Following is a look at the 2022 offensive line class' draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority at the position, and five offensive linemen who could fit the Lions.
Offensive line class draft strength: It's a solid class, with a half dozen or more prospects worthy of being taken in the first round. However, no prospects are comparable to Penei Sewell, who was drafted seventh overall by the Lions.
Lions' o-line position depth: Offensive line is the Lions' strongest position, with talented starters and solid backups who could step in and play in the event of injuries with little, if any drop-off in performance.
Lions' o-line draft priority: Not a need, but the Lions could take an offensive lineman at some point if there's a value pick. Jackson, drafted in the third round by the Lions in 2020, is an example of that. He was too good to pass up, and made the Pro Bowl in his second season.
Five offensive linemen who could fit the Lions:
(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)
1. Ickey Ekwonu, North Carolina State:
6-4, 320. 4.93 40-yard dash.
Charting his progression in three seasons at North Carolina State reads like keeping score at an MMA event.
As a rookie in 2019 he started the final seven games at left tackle and was credited with 37 pancake blocks. Moved to left guard at the start of 2020 – and later back to tackle – he had 50 pancake blocks and 22 knockdowns.
He was a unanimous first-team All American in 2021.
2. Evan Neal, Alabama:
Neal is tall enough at 6-7.5 to be a force on the offensive line, and he's heavy enough at 337 to hold his ground. And from what he displayed in his Pro Day workout – in addition to his performance for the Crimson Tide – he's plenty athletic.
But he did not run the 40-yard dash for the scouts. That apparently will remain a mystery, but it is not likely to affect his draft status.
Most importantly, the tape does not lie. Neal's versatility on video was impressive – 13 starts at left guard as a freshman in 2019, 12 at right tackle in 2020 and 15 at left tackle in 2021.
3. Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa:
6-7, 330. 4.89 40-yard dash.
In a scheduling quirk – caused by the COVID-19 pandemic --- Penning already knows what it's like to play a 17-game season. There's a catch, he did it in sections.
A three-year starter, Penning played six games for Northern Iowa in a 2021 spring schedule, and then all 12 games in the regular 2021 fall schedule.
In addition to his 4.89 40 time at the Combine, he did 28 reps in the bench press. That's impressive for a man his size, and with an arm length of more than 35 inches.
View photos from offseason workouts on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.
4. Zion Johnson, Boston College:
6-3, 316. 5.18 40-yard dash.
Johnson was a man on the move.
He started 19 of 22 games at Davidson before transferring to Boston College. He started seven games at left guard in 2019 and moved to left tackle in 2020, playing 783 of 785 snaps.
Johnson returned to BC in 2021 for a fifth season and played guard after considering entering the NFL draft.
5. Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan (sleeper):
6-7, 305. 5.05 40-yard dash.
Born in Austria, played 38 games from 2018-21.
He started playing American football (not soccer) at the age of 14 for the Vienna Vikings. As an exchange student, he played at Kellogg High School in Detroit.
He was shifted to tackle for his last two seasons at CMU and developed quickly. Some analysts have projected that he could play an interior line position because of his athleticism.