With the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft concluded, we now know what the New Orleans Saints' pre-draft trades were for. Their second pick in the first round (#19 overall) became offensive tackle out of Northern Iowa Trevor Penning. Many fans are now left trying to figure out what Penning’s strengths and weaknesses are, and how he fits into the grand scheme of things in New Orleans. In this article, I will be covering Trevor Penning as a prospect, and how his traits line up with the Saints' need at left tackle.
Athleticism & RAS
The first thing you can notice right off the rip with Trevor is his athleticism, both in the form of functional strength (discussed later) and play speed. In terms of RAS (Relative Athletic Score), he scored a 9.96 out of 10, which ranks him 6th in this grading system since it began grading in 1987. He ranked a green score (8+) in every category measured aside from his vertical jump, which is impressive considering he has good size but speed to go along with it.
Trevor Penning is a OT prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored an unofficial 9.96 RAS at the Combine out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 6 out of 1146 OT from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/0NX5hNfbgc #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/cqehjxbJ2r— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 5, 2022
His athleticism and quickness as a pretty large tackle are extremely impressive, as RAS showed his nearest comparison athletically was Taylor Lewan.
The Saints always seem to look for the athletic abilities of players, as normally they can teach the rest if they are willing to learn. Penning seemingly falls into this category, as he raved about the Saints’ tackle room including Ryan Ramczyk in his post-draft interview. Overall, his athletic capabilities are undeniable, but this just skims the surface of what Penning brings to the table for New Orleans.
Strength & Gameplay style/mentality
I think the NFL scouting report on Penning puts it best:
The main thing that has been brought up during this whole draft process, both as a positive and negative in some aspect, is his style of play. Penning is a mauler, he pushes with everything he has every single down and tries to get opposing players riled up. This works in his favor similar to how it does with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, in that he makes them feel his presence on the field. However, as we saw slightly at the senior bowl, it also has a downside. His penalty numbers rise pretty often due to holding, and as many have mentioned, in senior bowl reps he actually ran a defender right into his QB (first clip in this video):
However, what else can you see in this video? His strength. He has an absolutely insane amount of functional strength to where he can hold anchors for a significant amount of time and make defensive linemen look easy to block in the vertical aspect. He very rarely gets driven directly back, as he has a solid capability at moving with defensive ends and bringing them outside the pocket to the left. As for the concerns about his aggressiveness? Saints HC Dennis Allen states:
Being able to tone back his aggressiveness slightly and utilize it in a more productive manner is going to be the key, which Allen clearly understands. This is the root of his potential, as he displays absolutely amazing physical traits which new Saints OL coach Doug Marone should be able to hone in on.
2nd Level/making blocks upfield
The third and final trait I would like to talk about with Penning is somewhat tied to his speed. This is his ability to get to the 2nd level and make blocks against linebackers and players beyond the LOS. This is something that we see time and time again with Saints starting Center Erik McCoy, and he is revered for doing so as it opens lanes downfield for the running backs. Many of you will remember him doing this against the Packers to block up field for Alvin Kamara, allowing him to score a touchdown off a screen:
Erik McCoy led the #Saints offense in Week 3!— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) September 28, 2020
He was terrific, leading all Centers in W3 in OVR (81.4) and Pass Blk (85.0) grades, while ranking 3rd in Run Blk (78.9).
The Packers also failed to beat him one single time on his 42 pass blocking reps.pic.twitter.com/OU6i1lchsc
While we may not see this level of upfield blocking by Penning, he does similar things at the 2nd level and this will be another boon to success in the running game. He also has the intuition to make sure the man he was supposed to cover is re-directed to another offensive lineman before moving upfield, which is a great sign as he would not just leave the RB to fend for himself in the backfield.
A good example of this trait can be seen against Iowa State in 2021, where Penning pull-blocks behind a tight end, picks up the defensive end for a split second to make sure he is accounted for by the OL, then rushes forward to cover up a DB. Despite this not leading to a huge gain, it could have been if the defense didn't collapse in on the ball carrier earlier in the field. (Penning is the left tackle on this play, 2nd in from the right for viewers, lined up to the viewer's left of a tight end)
This type of thing is really nice to see from a scouting standpoint, as it shows Penning is not JUST an anchor. He is not the type to just sit back and block one guy the whole play unless that is required, he can also go downfield with his speed and make blocks to open up lanes for the running back. This combined with the elusiveness of Alvin Kamara will make for an absolutely lethal duo in the running game and should open up some nice gaps where Kamara can show off his explosiveness as always.