2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Oregon LB Noah Sewell

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, I’ll be profiling Oregon LB Noah Sewell

#1 Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon (R-Sophomore) – 6020, 253lb

Measurements

Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Noah Sewell 6’2, 253lb N/A N/A N/A
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
N/A N/A N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
N/A N/A

The Good

— Has great size and length for the position with a stout, filled-out frame
— Has lined up as a traditional linebacker in the box, split out over the slot, and on the edge as a pass rusher
— Possesses good play speed and explosiveness
— Plays with great effort in all aspects of the game
— Shows phenomenal pursuit of the football as a sideline-to-sideline defender
— Takes good angles to the football to cut off outside runs, closing ground quickly
— Flies into the backfield on blitzes and when asked to rush the passer
— Strong at the point of attack and can stack and shed blocks
— Will overpower TEs against the run and holds his own against OL as a run defender
— Can push the pocket with a bull rush as well as use his speed to win around the corner on the edge
— Adequate zone dropper that reads the QB’s eyes and can cover intermediate zones
— Will have his eyes take him to the ball, leading to deflections of INTs
— Has a real knack for getting his hands up in passing lanes

The Bad

— Isn’t the quickest when asked to move laterally or change directions
— Has more build-up speed than instant burst
— Can move well for his size, but lacks fluidity to cover RBs and TEs in man coverage
— Backpedal looks mechanical and labored, leading to a longer reaction time for receivers to get open
— Will leave his feet and arm tackle at times, allowing runners a chance to break free
— Likes to tackle high and try and swing ballcarriers down rather than running through on contact
— Can overrun plays at times as well as not square up as a tackler, leading to missed opportunities
— Needs to use his hands better to fight off blocks, keeping outside leg and arm free
— Can do a better job keeping his shoulders square to the LOS as he reads the play
— Can have eyes locked into the backfield for too long, watching the QB rather than moving to cover the receiver in his zone

Bio

— Redshirt Sophomore Prospect (COVID year) from Malaeimi, American Samoa
— Born April 26, 2002 (age 20)
— Brother of Lions OT Penei Sewell, Saints LB Nephi Sewell, and Nevada LB Gabriel Sewell
— Five-star prospect by Rivals and 247Sports
— Consensus No. 1 player in Utah and top-3 inside linebacker in the nation by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports
— Named “Mr. Football” for Utah, playing LB and RB at Orem HS
— As a senior, led Orem High School to the Utah 5A State Championship
— Enrolled in January of 2020 with the Oregon Football team
— Saw action in all seven games during a pandemic-shortened season in 2020 and recorded 48 total tackles (28 solo), 6.5 TFLs, two sacks, and a forced fumble
— Played and started in 14 games in 2021 where he racked up 114 stops (53 solo), 8.5 TFLs, four sacks, two forced fumbles, five PBUs, and one INT
— Started Oregon’s first 12 games before opting out of the SDCCU Holiday Bowl and declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft
— Finished third on the team with 56 total tackles (24 solo), 5.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, four PBUs, an interception, and a fumble return in 2022, also recorded a rushing TD
— Pac-12 All-Conference second team (2022), Pac-12 All-Conference first team (2021), Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year (2020), The Athletic Freshman All-America first team (2020)

Tape Breakdown

Noah Sewell comes from a family where football represents a major part of the dynamic. His brothers Penei and Nephi both entered the league the last two years with Penei being a first-round pick with the Detroit Lions and Nephi signing with the New Orleans Saints as a UDFA. His other brother, Gabriel, currently plays at Nevada, speaking to the bloodline the Sewell family comes from.

Noah is a physically gifted and talented linebacker from Oregon who captured the national stage as a recruit, ranking as the #1 overall player from the state of Utah and as a top three linebacker in his recruiting class. He chose Oregon over a host of other offers and saw playing time immediately as a freshman stater racking up Freshman All-American honors in 2020 before becoming a First Team All-PAC 12 pick in 2021 and a Second Team All-PAC 12 pick in 2022.

When you watch Sewell on tape, you see a big, fast, and explosive player at the position. The dude plays like his hair is on fire every snap as is evident by the way he plays chase in pursuit. Watch this rep against Ohio State where Sewell shows off his sideline-to-sideline speed in pursuit of #7 C.J. Stroud who keeps the ball and tries to scramble on the rollout, getting sticked by Sewell at the LOS for no gain.

Here is another example against Utah where you see Sewell’s acceleration and speed in pursuit of the QB on the keep, running him down in the backfield and swings him down out of bounds for a loss of yardage.

Standing at 6’3, 251lb, Sewell is a well-built specimen at linebacker that combines speed and explosiveness with brute strength and power. He does a good job stacking and shedding blocks to make plays in the run game, whether it be with finesse or with power. Here we see the former as he swims over the shoulder of the LG coming to block him and chops down the runner at the line for no gain on the play.

He has no issue playing through the blocks of TEs and RBs, having the strength and physicality to play to run through their arms in pursuit of the ball. Watch this rep against Georgia where Sewell runs through #19 Brock Bowers on the swing pass, rallying to the back on the outside and gang tackles him to the ground.

Sewell can win with strength at the point of attack as a run defender and a pass rusher when he reads the play and executes with a strong punch to shed blocks. Watch this play as Sewell strings out the stretch run to the sideline, working through the outside arm and leg of the OL he’s engaged with to make the tackle on the running back.

Sewell has proven to be a capable pass rusher from various alignments of the defensive formation. Pro Football Focus awarded Sewell with an 89.7 pass-rushing grade in 2021, a stellar mark for an off-ball linebacker. Still, Sewell has shown the versatility to line up on the edge as well and get after the QB like we see here against Fresno State, dipping under the LT as he gets the corner and puts the heat on the passer, forcing a throw off his back foot that sails incomplete.

Sewell’s speed makes him a great spy of the QB when asked to clamp down on mobile passers from leaving the pocket. Here we see Sewell used in that facet against Utah, quickly closing the ground between he and the Utes QB, taking him down as he tries to leave the pocket.

When asked to play in zone coverage, Sewell can make his drops and will read the QB’s eyes having a feel for breaking on the pass once thrown to contest it at the catch point. This leads to PBUs against backs and TEs in his zone as well as the chance at an INT that Sewell capitalizes on in this play against the Utes in the PAC-12 Championship game, undercutting the route by the slot receiver on the slant pattern and picks it off.

Still, Sewell’s instincts in coverage still need some work as he tends to lock his eyes in the backfield, being unaware at times of receivers getting open in his zone around him like on this play where the TE spots up just to the side of Sewell for the easy completion and walk-in TD. However, the play is saved as the QB overthrows the TE, having the pass fall incomplete.

Sewell also has bad tendencies of tackling high as seen above as well as leaving his feet and arm tackling rather than running through the ballcarrier on contact. He also lacks ideal change of direction skills and fluidity in lateral movements as most big-bodied off-ball linebackers struggle with. Watch this run against Utah where Sewell gets spun around as the receiver stutter steps, causing him to overrun the play and give up additional yardage. The same thing happens on the next play against UCLA where Sewell fails to get off the block and overruns the back, showing a lack of spatial awareness as he failed to keep outside leg and arm free at the start of the rep and properly pursue the ballcarrier after.

Here is another example of Sewell closing ground in pursuit of the running back who catches the ball in the flat but overruns the ballcarrier as #6 Kenny McIntosh jukes back inside as Sewell extends his arm to try and grab the runner while he is out of position.

Conclusion

Overall, Noah Sewell is a “first off the bus” kind of guy at the ILB position, having great size, strength, and speed that you want in a downhill thumper. He can effectively work off and around blocks as a run defender and brings some upside as a pass rusher. He also is capable of being a QB spy and making zone drops in the flats or in the intermediate quadrants of the field. Still, his fluidity as an athlete needs to be worked on this season for him to be considered a well-rounded prospect at the position as well as cleaning up some of his tackle attempts and ability to stay sticky in man coverage.

When watching Sewell, a name that immediately stuck out to me as a pro comparison was Jahlani Tavai of the Patriots who too was a thickly-built, stout run defender coming out of Hawai’i, standing 6’2, 250lb with a physical playstyle as a run-and-chase defender at the second level. Tavai also has flashed pass rush upside during his time in college (16.5 career sacks) as well as a downhill run defender. Still, Tavai has struggled at times playing laterally in terms of fighting off blocks as well as in coverage, being more of a two-down run plugger and occasional blitzer than a traditional three-down linebacker.

Right now, I see Sewell having a similar role in the league as a compliment to a smaller, more agile linebacker next to him. I think Sewell is faster and more explosive than Tavai was coming out, but he will really need to work on his ability to play laterally and backwards to be trusted as an every-down defender at the next level. The Pittsburgh Steelers could address LB early with Devin Bush, Marcus Allen, and Robert Spillane slated to hit free agency. Sewell could be drafted to compete with Mark Robinson, being that downhill enforcer against the run while also being able to stretch plays out to the sideline as well.

Projection: Day Two

Depot Draft Grade: 8.0 – Potential Starter/Good Backup (3rd Round)

Games Watched: vs Georgia (2022), vs UCLA (2022) vs Utah (2021), at Washington (2021), at UCLA (2021)

Previous 2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles
OL O’Cyrus Torrence LB Jack Campbell WR Zay Flowers WR Parker Washington
DL Bryan Breese DT Jalen Carter OT Darnell Wright CB Joey Porter Jr.
WR Jordan Addison DL Siaki Ika OT Dawand Jones CB Cam Smith
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