Why Michael Penix Jr. Isn’t a Fit for the Minnesota Vikings

Dec 29, 2022; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) carries the ball against the Texas Longhorns in the first half of the 2022 Alamo Bowl at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings seem to be on the fastlane to drafting a quarterback with their first selection of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Some fans have already had sweet dreams of Commissioner Goodell calling the name of Drake Maye after a slick maneuver by GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to trade his way up to the third selection of the first round. Other fans have expressed a hesitation to spending that much draft capital on a team that needs talent, thus settling for a smaller package bundled up and sent to Los Angeles in return for J.J. McCarthy

There are also fans that want no part of a trade-up and would rather see Minnesota stick-and-pick the best player available at 11 and a prospect like Michael Penix Jr. at 23. While the idea of getting your pick of the litter of best defensive players at 11 isn’t a wild one, the second half of it completely goes against what Minnesota has set themselves up perfectly to do.

Can Michael Penix Jr. Be Successful in Minnesota?

Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns in the 2024 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This idea relies heavily on the possibility that Penix would come out on the better side of his development. While it isn’t exactly impossible that he becomes a quality NFL field general, I’m not so sure that Minnesota would be where that happens.

There are the general concerns about Penix in the pros – his age and injury history. Michael Penix Jr. will be 24 come Week 1 of the 2024 NFL season, which would be a touch too old for a rookie even if they were starting from day one. Penix most likely will not be starting right out of the gate no matter where he goes as he will need a year or two on the bench to adapt his style to the professional level. Subscribing to this school of thought, which is a safe one, puts him as not being starter-worthy until he’s pushing age 26 or 27.

On top of the age, his injury history is an extensive one. He played his first four collegiate seasons at Indiana, with every single one being ended prematurely by injury. Penix suffered a Grade 3 ACL tear in his right knee in 2018, a shoulder clavicle fracture in 2019, another Grade 3 ACL tear in the same knee in 2020, and a shoulder A/C joint separation in 2021. 

Michael Penix
Nov 19, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) passes against the Colorado Buffaloes during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Not only were his first seasons brought to early endings, when he actually played, he wasn’t all that convincing. In 2021, he only completed 53.7% of his passes for 939 yards, 4 TDs, and 7 INTs in the five games he appeared. His best season came in 2020, where he completed 56.4% of his passes for 1,645 yards, 14 TDs, and 4 INTs with a passer rating of 136.5. 

His college career would take off when he was able to remain healthy, and was surrounded by some of the best talent in the country. Over two seasons at Washington, Penix posted 9,544 yards, 67 TDs, and 19 INTs with an average passer rating of 154.2 over that span. 

It took Penix four major injuries and a lot of rehabbing to get to being a top QB in the country, but he did eventually achieve just that. He led a great Washington run to the National Championship that unfortunately resulted in a loss to J.J. McCarthy and the Michigan Wolverines. 

There is no denying his incredible arm talent and leadership capabilities. However, there are some parts of his game that won’t fly against NFL defenses. At least, not for long. 

Nov 18, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) leaves following the victory against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Penix displays an inconsistent and imprecise pocket drop, which greatly affects the offense’s timing and his ability to place the ball where it needs to go. This is compounded on top of his elongated throwing motion that lacks a snappy release. Instead, it’s more of a long wind-up that NFL edge rushers get paid a lot of money to strip away. This less-than-ideal throwing motion on top of his inconsistent timing and tempo leads to inaccurate throws in all areas of the field, including the middle of the field, a place he has been widely criticized for simply seeming scared to throw to.

The Kevin O’Connell offense requires a quarterback to be confident in throwing downfield with timing and the ability to have consistent timing through his drop-back and reads. A guy that can also move the pocket wouldn’t hurt, either. This more describes J.J. McCarthy as opposed to Penix, as Penix often stands in the pocket without moving. This is frustrating as the Washington quarterback displayed his speed at his pro day with a 4.46 40-yard-dash, yet only accumulated 80 rushing yards on 35 rushing attempts.

Penix Jr. certainly is an intriguing prospect for any team, but his inconsistencies unfortunately can be categorized under the requirements of a quarterback that would actually fit the Vikings. With his fundamental inconsistencies that have years of experience behind them, it would be a mountain of a challenge for Penix to unlearn his habits and have Kevin O’Connell instill his desired tendencies in him. 

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Sports Reference CFB.