The 2022 NFL Draft looks to be a deep and talented one along the offensive line. Not only are there plenty of top prospects, but there is a solid depth of talent that could produce starters well into the third round.
That’s good news for the New York Giants and every other NFL team in need of offensive linemen. But the Giants shouldn’t just be concentrating on the big-name prospects from the big schools. There’s a surprising number of small-school players who are set to turn heads over the course of the draft process.
Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning is a big, athletic, and mean offensive tackle prospect who could be set to burst onto the scene and rocket up draft boards over the next couple weeks. Penning isn’t getting much national buzz outside of the draft community, but there’s a reason why he was the first senior to receive — and accept — an invitation to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
The University of Northern Iowa has been producing some very intriguing NFL prospects of late. Last year it was Spencer Brown and Elerson Smith who turned heads over the course of the draft process.
Could Trevor Penning be the next Panther to burst onto the scene?
Prospect: Trevor Penning (70)
Games Watched: vs. Iowa State (2021), vs. South Dakota (2021), vs. Southern Illinois (2021), vs. North Dakota State University (2021)
Career Games Played (starts): 32
2021 Games Played (starts): 12
Best: Competitive toughness, play strength, versatility
Projection: A starting offensive tackle with scheme and position versatility
(Penning is LT number 70)
Trevor Penning is a big, athletic, versatile, and downright mean offensive line prospect from Northern Iowa.
Penning has a near-prototypical build for the position at the NFL level with good height, length and thickness in his upper and lower halves. He has solid experience, playing in 32 games with starts at both left and right tackle for UNI’s offense.
Penning has good flexibility for his size throughout his lower body, easily sitting into his stance and playing with a wide base. Penning shows the ability to be a “knee-bender”, sitting into his pass sets and generally playing with good hip and pad level. He uses his leverage well to maximize his already impressive play strength as well as to deal with smaller speed rushers in pass protection. He is, generally speaking, a reliable pass protector with a smooth kick-slide to hit his landmarks against EDGE defenders. Likewise, he has plenty of play strength to anchor and re-anchor against bullrushes from bigger EDGE rushers.
Penning is a capable run blocker with the versatility to execute in both man-gap and zone blocking schemes – as well on screen plays and as a pulling tackle. Penning consistently creates motion along the line of scrimmage, both vertically on power running plays and horizontally on outside zone plays. He works up to the second level well, works well on double teams, and consistently works to sustain his blocks throughout the play.
Penning’s greatest asset is his competitive toughness and play demeanor. Penning is a mauler of a tackle who competes through the whistle and plays with a definite mean streak. He routinely looks to finish his blocks with the defender on the ground and shows good core strength in torquing defensive linemen off their feet. He also shows good football IQ and awareness as a blocker, easily picking up stunts, twists, and late pressure.
Penning is a good-enough athlete to be scheme versatile, but he lacks truly elite athleticism on the field. He could struggle against the most athletic speed rushers, particularly early in his pro career.
Likewise, Penning’s balance is a consistent issue on tape and seems related to a tendency toward letting his hips rise late in downs. Penning winds up on the ground too often. And while he can also take defenders out of the play, it denies UNI of a blocker as well. He also needs to be more disciplined with his hand placement, as they can wind up outside too often. Combined with his grip strength and aggression as a blocker, those wide hands could lead to untimely holding calls at the NFL level.
Overall Grade: 7.7
Trevor Penning projects as a starting offensive tackle with position and scheme versatility.
While he might not show the top-end athleticism on the field of some of the more elite athletes at the tackle position, he makes up for it by combining very good play strength, good length, and a wide mean streak. Penning is athletic enough to keep up with most speed rushers in pass protection and more than strong enough to hold up against power rushers (or looping defensive tackles) as long as he maintains leverage.
Once Penning gets his hands on a defender, their rep is pretty much over. He is a bulldozer in the run game, with enough athleticism for zone scheme and the play strength for man-gap power. Likewise, he is certainly able to get out in space working to the second level, as a pulling tackle, or as a screen blocker.
Penning has the athletic and mental profile to push for a starting job immediately upon entering the NFL. His background on both sides of the offensive line should allow teams to slot him in wherever they have an opening.