Michael Penix Jr. Scouting Report

  • Underdog ADP: 228.2 overall (QB32), rookie QB5

Unlike the other top six QBs in this class, Michael Penix Jr. wasn’t an overly hyped college prodigy. Don’t confuse this as a Rudy situation, but the Tampa native product was “just” a three-star recruit and ranked as the 21st-best pro-style QB in the 2018 class.

The No. 1 pro-style QB recruit in that class? Trevor Lawrence. That’s what six years in college will do for a man, as Penix spent four seasons at Indiana before eventually linking back up with his former offensive coordinator and QB coach-turned Washington head coach Kalen Deboer.

It was a good choice. Washington went 25-3 with Penix under center, and the 2023 Heisman Trophy runner-up had the Huskies in a one-score game in the fourth quarter of the National Championship before ultimately falling short.

We're looking at one of the most productive QBs in college football over the last two seasons. Here's how Penix ranked among 89 Power Five QBs with 300-plus dropbacks from 2022 to 2023:

  • Pro Football Focus (PFF) pass grade: 91.2 (No. 6)
  • Passing yards: 9,547 (No. 1)
  • Passing TDs: 67 (No. 3)
  • Passer rating: 105 (No. 25)
  • Yards per attempt: 8.6 (No. 21)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 74.3% (No. 32)
Michael Penix Jr.

Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Texas Longhorns in the 2024 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Penix benefited mightily from essentially having a full college career under his belt by the time he joined the Huskies. And getting to play with not one, not two, but three talented WRs along with the country’s Most Outstanding Offensive Line Unit in 2023 certainly helped matters.

Was Penix really the difference-maker inside this lethal passing game? Or was it simply the perfect college marriage of one of the best offensive casts in the country propping up a seasoned QB? (Wait a sec, are we talking about Jayden Daniels or Bo Nix now?) Let’s do our best Stanley Yelnats impression and dig in on the pros and cons of one of the more polarizing QB prospects in this 2024 rookie class.

Note: I watched the all-22 copies of the 2023 Michigan, Texas, Oregon (x2), Michigan State, and Arizona State games specifically in preparation for this article.

Michael Penix Jr. Pros and Cons


Throws a b-e-a-utiful deep ball

It really is something to see. Penix is always more than happy to test the backbone of a defense, as his 206 pass attempts of 20-plus yards downfield are a full 37 more than the next-closest gunslinger (Drake Maye) over the past two seasons.

And guess what: Things generally worked out pretty great when Penix went deep. His 30 deep-ball TDs trailed only Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman last year, and even that doesn’t fully encapsulate the experience.

Seriously, what Penix did to Texas in 2023 is illegal in certain parts of the world. The performance was C.J. Stroud vs. Georgia-esque in terms of the “holy f*ck what if he somehow does this every game” factor.

There were games where the Washington WRs deserved most of the credit (Michigan State). Still, the tools are there for Penix. Just listen to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein:

He plays with smart pocket mobility and a willingness to get rid of the football, which makes it difficult to sack him. His delivery is bundled and his release point is very low, but his monster game against Texas showed flashes of impeccable touch. Penix has plenty of arm but needs to work with more consistent timing between the numbers to eliminate unnecessary contested throws.”

Speaking of that initial point…

Avoids sacks like the plague

PFF states that Penix was sacked just 31 times in 1,759 career dropbacks. No recent high-end QB prospect has been better at limiting sacks under pressure.

His decisions with the football while avoiding the sacks have also been good. Penix threw just seven INTs and was charged with only nine turnover-worthy plays on 283 pressured dropbacks over the past two seasons.

Further helping matters is Penix’s recent testing numbers at Washington’s Pro Day. The pocket passer totaled a measly eight rushing yards in 15 games last season; even taking sacks out of the equation leaves his rushing total at just 80 yards. And yet, Penix posted a 96th percentile vertical jump (36.5 inches) and clocked a 40-yard dash as fast as 4.46 seconds.

Don’t expect Penix to suddenly resemble Mike Vick at the next level, though, as he never made a habit of running at Indiana even prior to his two torn ACLs in three years. That said, having this kind of athleticism to fall back on could make it possible for Penix's knack for limiting sacks to translate to the professional level.


Struggles under pressure

While Penix does a great job of limiting negative plays under pressure, he also didn’t exactly thrive when defenses were able to muddle up his typically clean pockets. 

Shocking but true: No QB was better last year with scary pass-rushers breathing down their neck. Still, his numbers under duress admittedly fall short relative to this year’s other top prospects at the position. Here's how the top QB prospects in the 2024 draft class measured up under pressure from 2022 to 2023:

  • Michael Penix: 6.9 YPA, 39.2% completion rate, 12:7 TD:INT ratio
  • Drake Maye: 6.6 YPA, 44% completion rate, 18:9 TD:INT ratio
  • Caleb Williams: 8.0 YPA, 49.4% completion rate, 22:4 TD:INT ratio
  • Jayden Daniels: 8.3 YPA, 51.3% completion rate, 9:0 TD:INT ratio
  • J.J. McCarthy: 8.2 YPA, 56.7% completion rate, 13:4 TD:INT ratio
  • Bo Nix: 8.2 YPA, 57.3% completion rate, 15:1 TD:INT ratio
Michael Penix Jr.

Michigan defensive lineman Kenneth Grant (78) reaches out to sack Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) in the second quarter during the College Football Playoff national championship game against Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 8, 2024. Photo Credit: Melanie Maxwell / USA TODAY NETWORK

As The Ringer’s Danny Kelly notes: “Penix has a tendency to fall away or drift when he throws against pressure, which causes the ball to sail.” 

In fact, there were times when it looked like Penix was overwhelmed by what he was seeing, which is a concerning part of his profile. That brings us to our next point…

Life was easy in this Washington offense

It’s not like Penix didn’t flash during his time at Indiana. After all, the man threw for 491 yards and five TDs against Ohio State in 2020. Still, 29 passing TDs in 21 games with the Hoosiers wasn’t exactly the stuff of legends.

Penix’s bonkers passing numbers at Washington were certainly aided by the efforts of Rome OdunzeJa’lynn Polk, and Jalen McMillan, each of whom are tentatively expected to be drafted on Day 1 or Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft. Throw in the aforementioned Joe Thomas Award-winning offensive line, and you probably don’t need more than one hand to count the number of better offensive environments in college football last season.

Michael Penix Jr.

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines in the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Penix wasn’t always asked to make the world’s most difficult throws, and accordingly, one of his much-discussed negatives was his willingness to attack the middle of the field. While it’s not like Penix never found success on these sorts of throws, as a whole, he boasts the highest intermediate uncatchable throw rate of the 2024 rookie QBs. This is why the Tua Tagovailoa comp doesn’t really make sense to me for Penix.

The comp that I like most for Penix would be Southpaw Geno Smith. The Seahawks' QB has largely thrived in a downfield-oriented attack littered with talented WRs, and Smith also has a penchant for limiting sacks under pressure. Of course, a Geno Smith comp may be a red flag to NFL teams given how his career has progressed thus far despite an impressive bounce back season in 2022.

Fantasy Football Outlook for Michael Penix Jr.

Penix reportedly passed all his medical tests at the NFL Combine, so hopefully that injury concerns won't impact his draft capital. Draft capital matters because there really isn’t a great pedigree of QBs drafted outside of the first round becoming dominant fantasy producers.

And then there’s the age factor. Not every elderly QB draft prospect can turn out as well as Joe Burrow has thus far.

It feels like the best-case scenario for Penix would be landing with a team like the Raiders, where he'd have a strong surrounding cast of Davante AdamsJakobi Meyers, and Michael Mayer similar to what he had to work with at Washington.

But even then, his demonstrated lack of rushing production would likely make Penix more of a mid-tier fantasy QB2 at best, which isn’t exactly a great ceiling to be chasing.

I would put Penix in the same fantasy tier as guys like J.J. McCarthy and Bo Nix, but I do prefer both over him, making Penix my rookie QB6 in this class. Maybe he'll show a newfound penchant for rushing success at the NFL level, but expecting that skillset to emerge this late in his already-length career is probably wishful thinking.

NFL prospect profile
Ian Hartitz
Ian Hartitz
Ian is a senior fantasy analyst at Fantasy Life and he truly believes every day is a great day to be great. He's spent time with Action Network, NBC Sports and Pro Football Focus over the years, writing and podcasting about all things fantasy football along the way. Ian's process relies on a mix of film analysis and data study; whatever is needed to get the job done (job done). There's no reason fun can't be had along the way — we do live on a rock floating around a ball of fire after all. Outside of football, Ian enjoys MMA, his dachshund Lilly and candles.