The 2022 NFL Draft is now less than a week away. Teams are finalizing their draft boards and fans are trying to figure out just which potential-filled prospect they most want their teams to target. With that in mind, over the next couple days WEEI.com will present a handful of options that might make the most sense for Bill Belichick’s Patriots with the No. 21 overall pick.
Today that includes an offensive tackle with tremendous athletic upside.
40 time: 4.89
Resume: Penning attended Newman Catholic High School, the lowest level of 11-man football in the state of Iowa. His graduating class had fewer than 40 students. … While he developed into a recruiting-worthy offensive line prospect, he also showed his athleticism by lettering in basketball, track, wrestling, baseball and football over the course of his high school career. … Seen as an FCS-level prospect, Penning chose Northern Iowa over South Dakota. … His younger brother, Jared, started next to Penning at right guard last season at Northern Iowa. … Penning started 33 of 37 games played over his college career with 31 starts at left tackle. He did start a single game each at both right tackle and right guard. … Penning didn’t miss a game to injury over the last three seasons and broke the Northern Iowa record with a 625-pound squat.
Pre-Draft Buzz: Penning was one of the many big-men to run fast at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, notching a 4.89 40 at well over 300 pounds. … Beyond his obvious physical tools and weight room strength – in addition to the 625-pound squat, Penning did 28 at reps at 225 pounds in the bench press – he plays with an obvious edge on the field. Penning was quoted by The Athletic as saying, “When I’m on the field, I’m looking to embarrass who I’m going against. No mercy.” … Most consider Penning to be the fourth-best offensive tackle prospect in the 2022 draft class, with NFL.com’s latest mock draft slotting him at No. 21 to the Cowboys in a projected trade with the Patriots. … An ESPN dual mock with Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had Penning landing at No. 16 to the Saints.
Why Penning fits the Patriots’ needs: Former first-round pick Isaiah Wynn is in the final year of his rookie contract, having been the primary left tackle in New England in recent years. There is certainly some uncertainty as to who will be protecting Mac Jones’ blindside as he develops in the coming years. With Wynn, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Matt Light, New England has never shied away from targeting offensive tackles early in the draft. Penning has intriguing physical tools and upside despite needing to make a pretty significant jump in competition level to the NFL. With Wynn still in place, Penning might make sense as a guy who can develop into the left tackle role with 2023 as a target, similar to the way that Solder took a year to develop as Light’s replacement. Many fans and media types seem to bristle at the idea of using a first-round pick on an offensive lineman at this point, but Penning has elite upside potential at a critical position for any NFL offense.