Michael Penix Jr. entered the National Championship as a projected top-half of the first round in the 2024 NFL draft pick. But after a forgettable performance on the sport's biggest stage, whispers of doubt are starting to echo through draft circles. Did his underwhelming showing cost him as a first-round lock, and is he now destined to fall victim to the loaded quarterback class of 2024?
Penix's championship wasn't what he hoped for. He looked off all night and didn't make the downfield throws that have been the norm for him this season. He missed Odunze on a wide-open throw on 4th down early in the game and he struggled with accuracy all game. His decision-making, which was a strength of Penix Jr all season, was questionable at best against a fantastic Michigan defense.
While his substantial injury history and left-handed status were already lingering concerns for some teams, this high-profile stumble adds fuel to the fire. Teams wary of his durability and not wanting their quarterback to be left-handed, fair, or unfair, might see this as a red flag, pushing him down the draft board for some clubs.
Quarterbacks like Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, and potentially J.J. McCarthy are all great talents who have routinely been mocked to go somewhere in the first round. In a draft overflowing with signal-calling options, Penix might suddenly find himself an afterthought, his path to the first round blocked by a younger, shinier crop of prospects.
However, dismissing Penix entirely would be foolish. His body of work throughout the season speaks volumes. He led his team to a championship appearance, showcased an impressive blend of arm talent and poise, and proved capable of carrying an offense even under intense pressure. Teams looking for a proven leader with experience in big games may see past the championship hiccup and recognize his undeniable talent.
Ultimately, Penix's draft fate hangs in the balance. His lackluster performance certainly threw a wrench in the first-round narrative, but his overall track record and leadership qualities shouldn't be so easily cast aside. As the draft approaches, teams will be left to weigh the risks and rewards, deciding whether Penix's potential outweighs the concerns. Only time will tell if he can claw his way back into the first-round spotlight or find himself buried beneath the wave of rising stars at the quarterback position.