The 2022 season has only brought more questions for the 2023 NFL Draft QB class. But with his building scouting report, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. is becoming an answer. Quarterbacks don’t often break new ground as late as Penix has, but at this point, his strong play is undeniable — and his upside as a prospect is enticing.
Michael Penix Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Washington
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’3″, 213 pounds
It’s not about where you start. It’s about where you end up. There are more than a few redemptive arcs among the 2023 NFL Draft QB group, but Penix’s is one of the most intriguing.
Penix began his collegiate career as a three-star signee with the Indiana Hoosiers — a big-armed talent who also had a strong athletic background as a track standout and a center fielder in baseball.
Penix’s true-freshman season was cut short by a torn ACL, but he was soon given a chance to start again in 2019. That early opportunity was a gateway for a short, winding but ultimately exhilarating career with the Hoosiers.
The highlight of Penix’s Indiana career, hands down, was a heart-pumping upset win over Penn State in 2020, in which a last-second diving touchdown from Penix sealed the deal. But that moment was drowned out by a great deal of noise over the years, as injuries and inconsistency ultimately plagued Penix.
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Each of Penix’s four years at Indiana ended in injury. After tearing his right ACL in 2018, he injured his right sternoclavicular joint in 2019. In 2020? Another ACL tear in the same knee. And in 2021, a left shoulder issue.
After a four-touchdown, seven-interception 2021 campaign, Penix looked like a fading star. Completing 342 of 576 passes for 4,197 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 15 picks at Indiana, he subsequently transferred to Washington. With the Huskies, he’s already nearly surpassed his Indiana career totals in one season.
Through 10 games at Washington, Penix has connected on 286 of 426 attempts (67.1%) for 3,640 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He’s healthy, he’s confident, and he looks like a different QB entirely. And on tape, he looks like a legitimate 2023 NFL Draft QB prospect.
Michael Penix Jr. Scouting Report
Penix’s emergence caught the nation by surprise in 2022. Now, everyone is feeling the Big Penix Energy. The Washington QB has been productive and efficient in his final season, but can he be the heavily sought-after wild card in the 2023 NFL Draft QB class?
Physically, Penix checks a lot of boxes. He’s a well-sized QB with a prototypical frame that has good mass and density. And his arm talent approaches an NFL-starter threshold. The Washington QB generates easy velocity from multiple platforms and can push that velocity deep and past the numbers.
Penix throws with a crisp, whip-like release and has a tight spiral. He carries high-end velocity into the short and intermediate ranges. In particular, he delivers lasers outside the numbers in the short range — a quality that assists heavily on crucial downs. But he also has the arm strength to test defenses vertically and exploit seams, and he has the velocity to push passes into tight coverage.
Penix’s arm pops in structure, but he’s also a smooth off-platform thrower who can generate exceptional velocity while adjusting arm angles to elongate windows. He has the arm talent to mix high levels of velocity and touch on deep passes, leading receivers into tight buckets. Additionally, he’s able to smoothly adjust his trajectory while maintaining velocity on the run.
Athletically, Penix also brings a lot to offer. He’s a good creator overall, who has enough lateral agility and burst to sidestep rushers and escape out into space, as well as good speed for his size in the open field. In off-script situations, he’s able to quickly rotate and re-torque his hips rolling to his off side, and he has a degree of lateral twitch, which he can use to create breathing room in the pocket. Penix has the mobility to work on misdirections and create conflict within the defense. His instincts off-script also help him see the field and stay composed.
One trait in particular that’s shined for Penix in 2022 is his processing capacity. Now healthy, Penix has consistently shown many of the mental building blocks required to start in the NFL. He’s shown he can anticipate windows outside the numbers and decipher opportunities quickly against zone coverage. He can actively use eye manipulation on designed plays to freeze defenders and open up windows. He processes route breaks quickly, anticipating and delivering timely passes in tight pockets and throwing to receiver leverage with his arm talent.
Going further, Penix has shown he can survey the field quickly on his dropback, working from left to right on full-field reads. In a similar vein, he flashes impressive field vision, allowing anticipatory vision to dictate what he does in the pocket. He can pick out intermediate and deep passing windows with quick processing speed. The Washington QB can quickly pull the trigger after progressing and processing different zones of the field.
The glimpses of quick, efficient field manipulation on Penix’s tape are exciting. The Washington QB routinely keeps his eyes forward on the dropback, actively using his eyes to draw safeties away from boundary receivers and open windows. He’ll also use his eyes over the middle of the field to draw safeties down and open up deep shots. He quickly resets his eyes on play-action, seeing the field well off play fakes.
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Along with his processing capacity, Penix also displays excellent discretion as a passer. As a decision-maker, he can quickly peel off his first read when it’s not there. He’s relatively calm and controlled in the pocket. He won’t often force throws impulsively when threatened by pressure, and he has the patience to anticipate second-window throws while maintaining pocket presence. Penix can work high to low and land on his checkdown quickly. But he also experiences little hesitation when anticipating and taking deep boundary shots — an incredibly important trait in such a time-condensed role.
Overall, Penix has a strong degree of natural accuracy, often finding the receiver’s wheelhouse with his throws. He’s a consistent torso thrower in the short and intermediate ranges, but he’s also able to maintain accuracy off-platform and throw to receiver leverage while moving. Beyond general accuracy, there are incredibly impressive flashes of precision in contested situations on Penix’s tape, where he actively maximizes WR chances and minimizes turnover risk.
Penix has shown he can place passes away from defenders and in accordance with receiver leverage in the short range, maximizing RAC potential. Moreover, he throws with outside-shoulder leverage to the boundary, consistently giving receivers a chance and leading them away from contact.
Penix’s steady accuracy is, in part, an extension of his pocket work and mechanics. The Washington QB is efficient and composed at the top of his dropback — able to stand tall and deliver throws as pressure loops around. He instinctively feels pressure around the edges and can quickly step up and flow throw gaps into the open field. And on the move, he’s shown he can keep his shoulders level to maintain accuracy.
Both in structure and off-platform, Penix consistently gets solid hip rotation on throws and often maintains shoulder symmetry. While there are some mechanical inconsistencies to fix, Penix is a fairly natural phase thrower who has flashed the corrective muscle memory to settle his base and load his hips before throwing.
Among other things, Penix possesses a distinct willingness to sell out for game-defining plays. While his injury history may dissuade him from doing so at the next level, he’s a tough QB who’s willing to put his body on the line. At the same time, however, he’s flashed the wherewithal to throw the ball away when outside the tackle box and worked into a corner.
Lastly, though it is a small detail, Penix has smooth ball-handling skills on play fakes. He doesn’t just go through the motions, he fully invests in manipulating the defense.
Penix’s Areas for Improvement
Penix is a strong QB prospect, but there are a few areas where he can continue to progress. Above all else, Penix’s mechanics are still somewhat inconsistent. All things considered, he still presents himself as an accurate QB in spite of this. Nonetheless, maintaining that accuracy in the NFL will require additional mechanical work.
Penix’s release could be a bit cleaner throwing off-platform. He doesn’t always fully torque his hips and will overcompensate with his arm in those situations, causing volatility. At times, his release can be a bit winding. The Washington QB has room to be more efficient and compact, relying more on rotation than pure arm elasticity.
To that end, Penix can be more disciplined with his lower-body mechanics, both on quick rhythm throws and on traditional dropbacks. He sometimes throws while fading back, which can tip his front shoulder down and cause passes to stall out and go low. Additionally, Penix’s base widens too much at times, preventing full hip torque on throws.
Penix’s back foot occasionally lags on his hitch at the top of his drop, widening his base and tugging his front shoulder up. This can cause passes to drift high. Furthermore, when widening his base too much, Penix sometimes fails to fully drive his base through passes. This not only limits torque, but he can also erode at shoulder symmetry, again causing volatility with placement. That shows up at times on deep passes, where Penix can better place throws to receiver leverage in one-on-one opportunities.
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Moving elsewhere, while Penix is a good athlete and a good creator, he’s not elite in this phase. At times, he appears a bit stiff and upright as a mover, and he’s not an elite lateral athlete. His tall and slightly high-cut frame can limit his freedom of motion when attempting to evade in close quarters. Penix can also take steps to remedy this with his pocket work. On occasion, he can be quicker to step up into the pocket, as he sometimes lingers at top of his drop and fails to utilize space ahead.
While Penix is a good decision-maker overall, he does occasionally try to force contested throws a bit late with his arm talent, drawing in risk. At times, he displays some arm arrogance on broken plays, attempting to strong-arm throws into dangerous areas.
All of this aside, the most pressing concern with Penix might be his extensive injury history. With four season-ending injuries and two ACL tears in the same knee on his record, his medicals could be a major red flag down the stretch. Penix’s injuries naturally raise questions about his projected durability. Some teams could take him off their board.
Current Draft Projection for Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.
If we’re talking about play on the field alone, Penix can be a first-round talent in the 2023 NFL Draft. He has the requisite creation capacity and size to go along with high-level arm talent and general accuracy. He’s an adept processor who sees the field quickly, and he has the toughness to will his team ahead. He’s arguably a top-five QB in the 2023 class.
The large, unavoidable, and overarching issue with Penix is his medical history. He has four season-ending injuries on his record, including two ACL tears and an injury to his throwing shoulder. NFL Combine medicals will shed more light on these injuries and how they might affect Penix’s professional outlook. But it’s a notable red flag that will assuredly turn some teams away (or at least bump Penix’s round value down).
How injuries are ultimately viewed is a team-by-team affair, so it’s not out of the question that one team might see Penix as a QB worth gambling on. All it takes is one. But it’s just as likely that teams might let Penix fall into Day 2 before someone becomes willing to swipe him up at plus value.
All of this swerves around Penix’s profile on the field, however, which is exceptional. He can still cut down on “arm arrogance moments” at times, and his lower-body mechanics do need some work. But the arm talent, athleticism, accuracy, processing capacity, and toughness all tell of a QB who can be a solid NFL starter — if he can stay healthy and at full strength.