Brad Holmes remembers the moment he first heard about a young offensive lineman from Oregon named Penei Sewell. Holmes was the director of college scouting with the Rams at the time, and Rams west coast scout Vito Gonella brought up Sewell's name heading into the 2020 season.
"He had already (evaluated) him from the 2019 season and he was talking like, 'Man, this Oregon tackle is the real deal,'" Holmes recently told detroitlions.com. "Over the summer he was like, 'This guy is the best guy." He couldn't stop raving about him. It was like, 'you're kind of overselling this guy.'"
Sewell ended up opting out of the 2020 season, but his 2018 and 2019 tape was good enough to make him one of the top prospects in this year's NFL Draft.
"When I finally got a chance to look at (Sewell) that summer heading into the 2020 season, I was like, 'wow, Vito was right,'" Holmes said.
Sewell was one of Holmes' top-ranked players on his draft board heading into this year's draft, and the cameras in Detroit's draft room caught an ecstatic Holmes when Sewell fell to Detroit with the No. 7 overall pick.
Sewell slots into the right tackle spot with the Lions as a rookie, and solidifies Detroit's offensive line alongside Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. That unit is expected to be one of the better units in the league, and build a foundation to help Detroit turn things around in the coming years.
"We just couldn't be any more excited than we are about Penei," Holmes said after the draft. "Going through the process, we truly, we got to a point where we pretty much identified three players and he was one of those three that we would just be extremely, let's just say through the roof about.
"To be able to land him, he's going to be an integral and impactful piece to our franchise going forward for years to come. He's going to be a great addition to our offensive line. He's just a transcendent talent. I can't quite remember a guy that had feet like him in a long time, but it's not just the athletic ability. He's got the toughness, he's got the grit, he's got the strength. He's got the intangibles that we're looking for."
Sewell hasn't disappointed since arriving in Allen Park with his work ethic and intensity. The evaluation of Sewell will truly begin when the pads come on and the hitting starts in training camp later this summer, but so far, he's lived up to everything Holmes first heard about him.