Pro execs, scouts, coaches rank and evaluate the top 20 prospects in this QB class

PROJECTED: Rounds 1-2

A Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the most productive passers in college football last season, Penix (6-2 1/4, 216) is one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft — and some coaches believe, a long despite the history of injuries.

“The second-best quarterback in the draft, in terms of pure film rating, is Michael Penix,” said one AFC assistant coach. “When someone is injured a lot, the concern is durability over time. Is his body going to wear out? I’m a fucking coach, man. I don’t care about that. I think he has the biggest factor. He stands in the pocket and makes throws consistently. He took Indiana, they were (ranked) in the top 10. He took Washington to the national championship game, that’s him. plays with a lot of confidence. His guys love him.”

Penix was a three-year starter at Indiana, but suffered four consecutive season-ending injuries: a torn ACL in 2018, a right shoulder injury (non-throwing) in 2019, a torn ACL in 2020 and a separation of the AC joint to its left. (throw) shoulder in 2021. Sources say prior medical examinations have confirmed that Penix’s twice-reconstructed right knee is structurally sound; he also received a positive report in January from renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who found no meniscus problems or other associated damage. Some teams will still give him a lower medical grade based on the repeated injury, but that won’t keep him from getting a physical. Penix’s lack of mobility – or perhaps his reluctance to use it – is a bigger factor for some teams.

“He’s going to need a lot of structure, because he had the best combination of pass protection and threats,” an NFC official said, referring to a loaded Washington offense that included two probable first-round picks in the this year’s draft, receiver Rome. Odunze and lineman Troy Fautanu. “He’s been hit the least of all the top quarterbacks. And I think he’s rushed for (8) yards this season. Then you have to factor in the physicals. He’s a two-time guy to the ACL. But arm strength? He’s got the strongest arm of all these quarterbacks we’re talking about. It’s just a matter of, your shit has to be set up pretty well to drop a guy like that. .You have to feel good about your offense, where he’s going to throw in rhythm. He’s not going to be an off-platform guy.

Said one NFC quarterbacks coach: “He’s a little fragile when you look at him, so you can see where some of the injuries have happened, where these other guys – they have the ability to escape, they have the mobility. He’s not as accurate as these top few guys. He misses some throws, some plant throws, and his release is a little longer than some of these other guys, even though he’s probably had the best training. combined among the guys who threw.

In Washington, Penix reunited with Kalen DeBoer, who had been his OC at Indiana in 2019, and threw for over 9,500 yards and 67 touchdowns in two seasons with the Huskies. Penix’s final college campaign was his best, leading FBS with 4,903 passing yards while earning second-team AP All-America honors.

“He’s played a lot of football. He’s a good thrower. The ball comes out quick. He processes quickly. He’s accurate. He’s a natural thrower,” an AFC quarterbacks coach said, noting that Penix never called a play in the huddle. “A lot of things are wristband related (in the NFL), so he can read them. But it will definitely take him a little time to adjust to an NFL-type offense, the verbiage and all that. He I will do because he’s the right type of kid and he’s smart enough.”

In 48 games (45 starts) over six seasons at Indiana and Washington, Penix completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 13,741 yards and 96 touchdowns with 34 interceptions. He also had 13 rushing touchdowns, but only 265 total rushing yards.

“Man, you wish he was just a little bit bigger, because you like the guy, you like the way he plays,” one AFC executive said. “He’s really smart. He’s one of those guys where, if a guy is open, he finds him with his eyes. He can get hot and cut people up in his pocket. Not because he throws lasers or because that he’s so quick and nimble — he just finds it if you break coverage, he’s going to put it on his guy. He’s not as accurate as you might think when you dive deep into the film. This is probably the only play where his receivers make him look a lot better. His ball placement is a little awesome.

Penix’s low, left-handed delivery often comes up in conversations with scouts and coaches.

“Unless he throws the ball outside the numbers, he’ll get hit,” another AFC executive said. “He throws it on a fucking rope every time. He threw a deep ball – I saw that, okay, great. He’s got that damn movement. He’s I didn’t have any contact.”

An NFC head coach said: “I know there are videos of him in games where he has his hand under the ball. But when you watch him at the combine, he has the greatest wingspan (81 inches), widest shoulders, 10 (1/2 inches) – this guy can spin it.

Penix completed 27 of 51 passes for 255 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions while under siege in the national title game, a 34-13 blowout loss to Michigan.

“The injuries, the age, the talent around him makes him tough,” an NFC coordinator said of Penix, who turns 24 next month. “For some reason, I think it’s always hard to evaluate a lefty because you see so few of them. I think he has a lot of ‘wow’ games and I think he has a lot of talent. There’s no mobility. There’s a high injury risk. The national championship game – I’ll come back to that, because I think his offensive line was just destroyed. this league. He looked lost. “He looks nervous. He looks almost scared, and I understand that’s a concern. But I don’t see a world in which it overtakes Seattle (in 16th place). “

Another NFC quarterbacks coach said: “I don’t think (the throwing motion is) a big problem. The most important thing is, does he arrive on time and accurately? He sees it well. He “I understand why people like him. I think this kid has a natural talent as a passer, and that’s something you can’t train.”

Penix participated in Senior Bowl practices, but withdrew from the game. Although he rarely used his legs as a runner in college, Penix reportedly ran a 40-yard dash time in the range 4.51-4.57 at her pro day, while also posting impressive numbers in the vertical jump (36 1/2 inches) and broad jump (10-5).

“He should look great in the air. The question is: can he handle the people at his feet?” » said another NFC executive. “You saw him in the national championship game. You saw him a little bit in the Senior Bowl. How is he going to be offside?”

An AFC coordinator said: “We thought if everything goes on schedule, he’s going to be a very, very good quarterback and he can make the throws. As soon as he has to come off the field, you don’t don’t know what’s going to happen. How can you recruit this guy to be the backup when you know, during the preseason, he’s going to play with a backup O-line, he’s going to run for his life, he’s going to run for his life. will look like an asshole? What the hell? Why did we draft this guy who can’t play?

How polarizing is Penix? One scout ranked him seventh among QBs in this year’s class, behind South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler. Several coaches also placed Rattler ahead of Penix. One of Penix’s veteran coaches was journeyman Brett Hundley.

“I actually like Rattler more than Penix,” another NFC coordinator said. “I keep seeing everything where (Penix) climbs, he climbs. Could he go to the Raiders at 13? I just didn’t buy it. It was so clean for him.”

Other scouts say that, despite medical reviews, Penix is ​​a classic overstatement.

“I think he’s gotten a lot of criticism (about health issues) and it’s unnecessary,” one NFC scouting director said. “And the tape is really good this year. We can beat him as much as we want on that too – you sit and watch it back-to-back with these other guys, and you’re like: “Very good, he deserves the praise he gets.”

The Commanders, Patriots, Broncos and Raiders all brought Penix for visits; the Falcons trained him privately.

“His arm talent is really good. He’s been very productive,” an AFC scouting director said. “I think all 10 guys he was on the field with are current or future draft prospects. But he also played at a high level. I picture him in that Patriots-type offense. I’m not saying in any way he’s Tom Brady, but one of those offenses that spreads him out horizontally and he gets the ball out quick because the best thing he does is push the ball out of the numbers, vertically down the field, I don’t think not that he’s good at layering the ball inside. The way he throws the ball, I can see him having success.”

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