With J.J. McCarthy mocked to Seahawks, how can Penix raise his draft stock?

Jan 24, 2024, 11:34 AM

UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr NFL Draft Seattle Seahawks...

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. during pregame for the CFP National Championship on Jan. 8, 2024. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The 2024 Super Bowl matchup is yet to be decided, but with the NFL Draft taking place in just three months, mock draft season is already in full swing.

Mock NFL Draft Roundup: Who will be Seahawks’ top pick?

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft of 2024 on Tuesday, and he has four quarterbacks going in the first round: USC’s Caleb Williams, LSU’s Jayden Daniels, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy.

Kiper has the Seattle Seahawks selecting McCarthy with the 16th pick, but what about UW Huskies star Michael Penix Jr.?

Shortly after Washington lost to McCarthy’s Michigan in the College Football Playoff National Championship, Kiper joined ESPN’s “Get Up,” and he seemed to believe Penix had done enough to be selected over McCarthy in the first round of the draft.

“You can’t worry about one game. It’s a body of work,” Kiper said. “At Indiana he was 12-5 as a starter, certainly what he did at Washington the last two years was extraordinary. He showed the last two years that he can stay healthy. He needed to go back for this season – two full years healthy after all of those injuries over that four-year career at Indiana. I still think Michael Penix Jr. will be in the middle of the first round, J.J. McCarthy is borderline first round.”

It would appear from Kiper’s mock draft that McCarthy’s stock has risen since that statement, but he wrote in his mock draft that it’s actually based on what can happen over the course of the next few months.

“While I don’t have a first-round grade on McCarthy right now, a lot can change before Round 1 on April 25.”

So how can Penix change his draft destiny between now and April 25?

Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk discussed what the biggest concerns from prospective NFL teams like the Seahawks will be when it comes to drafting Michael Penix Jr. in the first round, and what he can do to win them over.

The concerns with Penix

Penix was healthy and incredibly tough throughout his fantastic tenure at UW, but it’s difficult for teams to overlook his injury history.

In his four years at Indiana before transferring to Washington, he suffered two torn ACLs in the same knee and injuries to each of his shoulders. It’s something that teams will weigh heavily, especially given that he’s not one of the youngest quarterback options available. Penix will turn 24 years old just a couple of weeks after the draft.

“I think scouts and organizations will say ‘OK, can you endure?’ Because in this league, as much as we protect quarterbacks, 60 of them still played this year,” said co-host Brock Huard, a former Seattle Seahawks QB who is now a FOX college football analyst, about Penix. “Teams were on their fourth quarterbacks for a reason. You still take a beating in this league and you’re not playing 14 or 15 games with five or six against Tulsa or some of these teams. You’re not playing that. Just about every week is an Oregon and a Michigan and a Texas. You’re playing elite dudes. Can that body hold up? There’s a reason that he didn’t disclose any of the ribs or any of the stuff that he’s dealing with this year. If he did, they’d say, ‘There it is, four out of the five years he just gets beat up.’”

Another thing that might give scouts pause, according to NFL Network analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, is Penix’s unconventional delivery.

UW Huskies in NFL Draft: Who stands out to Daniel Jeremiah?

“It’s not just that he’s left-handed, but it’s that he’s he’s high-cut and then he’s got a low delivery, so it looks so different when he throws the ball,” said Jeremiah, who also serves on Los Angeles Chargers game broadcasts. “Doing the Charger games, I saw Phillip Rivers for years – it’s just different. (Penix) throws a football differently because of his body type, being left-handed and his release. It looks different than anybody that I can ever remember. But there’s no denying the fact that it absolutely explodes out of his hand.”

This isn’t necessarily a negative. Huard notes that Penix has not had any arm strength issues or trouble with balls being batted down, but it is something that could leave scouts with questions about how it will translate in the NFL.

Ways to climb the draft board

Penix will get another chance to showcase his abilities, and do so against a fellow top draft prospect in Oregon’s Bo Nix, when they take part in the Senior Bowl on Feb. 3 in Alabama. It’s a chance to remind everyone of the impressive show Penix put on in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl, and put some distance in between the draft and the struggles that occurred in the national championship game.

“I’m really glad that he decided to participate in that,” Huard said of Penix in the Senior Bowl. “I think he really had to. I think coming off that Texas game, there might have been some of that sentiment of ‘Look at all this noise, look at all this attention and hype. You don’t have to go and compete, you’re going to be a top 15 pick.’ But I think coming off of the championship game and again, the injuries and everything else, you’ve got to go toe to toe with Bo Nix again. He’s going to be on your team. You’re going to be evaluated at four different practices on how you interview and how you carry yourself.”

Huard thinks another area Penix can separate himself is by showcasing the kind of speed that shows he could be a dual threat even though he didn’t really have to tap into that at UW.

“He’s going to have to jump 35 inches, he’s going to have to run a 4.6 or 4.7,” Huard said. “They’re going to have to say ‘Wow, OK, there’s a reason that he didn’t run.’ He got the ball out of his hands and did an amazing job of protecting himself which is a big, big key, but yeah, this is going to be a very big stretch for him. Bigger than for (UW Huskies wide receiver) Rome Odunze, bigger than for (UW Huskies offensive lineman) Troy Fautanu, because I think they’re bona fide top 10 dudes when it’s all said and done. Michael’s going to have to really work to answer some of these questions over this process more than some of his buddies.”

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