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ESPN’s Yates: How early Michael Penix may go in the NFL Draft

Apr 2, 2024, 8:29 AM | Updated: 11:48 am

Michael Penix Jr. NFL Draft...

Michael Penix Jr. of the UW Huskies throws a pass against Texas in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2024. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Seattle was the center of the NFL Draft world last week with the UW Huskies’ pro day on Thursday. The Dawgs have a ton of players that are going to get drafted this year, but all eyes were on one guy: quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

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Penix, the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2023, led the Huskies to the National Championship game last season and went 25-3 in his two years at Washington while leading the nation in passing each of those seasons.

Penix’s stock is one of the biggest questions leading up to this year’s draft, which is than a month away. Analysts are split on whether he will go in the first round or not.

Someone who was at Penix’s pro day and liked what he saw is Field Yates, a draft and fantasy football analyst for ESPN. Yates joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday and dove into Michael Penix Jr. as a draft evaluation.

Yates called Penix “the headliner” for UW’s pro day, and mentioned that on top of his throwing session, Penix doing the vertical leap and 40-yard dash was very noteworthy, too.

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“He did have a good darn good athletic workout prior to (throwing),” Yates said. “… I was sitting there right behind probably a dozen scouts and (UW receiver Rome Odunze) … and basically the consensus was (Penix ran the 40-yard dash in) somewhere between 4.56 and 4.59 (seconds). That’s a good time, obviously.”

As for the throwing session, it’s hard not to be impressed by what Penix can do with a football in his big left hand.

“I’ve seen him throw in person before, it wasn’t my first time, but every time you see him, you just think the ball just flies off of his hand. I mean, the amount of natural power that Michael Penix Jr. drives on the football every single throw is ridiculous,” Yates said. “It’s effortless. I mean, it’s just a rocket that he has attached to his left arm.”

Yates noted that there’s often “fool’s gold” with putting too much stock into a quarterback’s pro day, but to him, it’s a matter of whether the quarterback looks like you expect him to.

“And he sure did,” Yates said of Penix.

Where Michael Penix Jr. sits in draft QB rankings

During the pre-draft process, Yates spends a lot of time with Mel Kiper Jr., who revolutionized NFL Draft coverage for ESPN. Those two are in agreement that Penix and Oregon’s Bo Nix are battling it out to be the fifth quarterback selected in this year’s draft.

“I think the reality with Mike is probably this: he has a couple of question marks that teams are going to feel different about just based off of their medical staff. Obviously that’s a big part of it, right? He’s got two torn ACLs, he’s got two shoulder injuries,” Yates said. “He also is a quarterback who, while more athletic than people gave him credit for – which is evidenced by those two jumps and the 40 time – is not the same caliber of athlete as (LSU’s) Jayden Daniels or (North Carolina’s) Drake Maye. It’s gonna come down to style of play. What kind of quarterback, what kind of offense do you want to run? That to me more than each person’s individual ranking will decide which quarterback is fifth in this class and which quarterback is sixth in this class.”

Ultimately, Yates thinks Penix has a great chance to be that fifth quarterback off the board, and for that to happen in the first round.

“He’s got a certain magnetism as well that I think will shine through when he’s doing these pre-draft interviews over the next three weeks and probably a couple private workouts as well,” Yates said. “The energy in that building when he was doing his jumps and his runs and in the throwing session, it was pretty clear that on a team full of future NFL Draft picks that one was kind of the Northern Star for that Washington offense, and it was, of course, Mike. He’s going to do really well for himself over the next three weeks. And I think the range for him would be as soon as the first 12 or 15 picks once we get to April 25.”

Listen to Brock and Salk’s full conversation with ESPN’s Field Yates at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

Michael Penix Jr. shows off athleticism at UW Huskies pro day ahead of NFL Draft

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