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Atlanta Falcons select Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick. Grade: B

Well, this was unexpected. Michael Penix Jr. is the best pure thrower in this draft class, and he’s got a ton of weapons in his new home, but the Falcons just gave Kirk Cousins a mega-contract. It will be fascinating to see how Raheem Morris lines this all up, but Penix’s talent is undeniable if he can fix some iffy throws under pressure.  

Michael Penix Jr. was a three-star recruit out of Tech High School in Tampa, Florida, and originally committed to Tennessee before a coaching change had the Volunteers rescinding Penix’s scholarship. Penix’s relationship with Indiana head coach Tom Allen had him committing there in January of 2018. Penix played four seasons at Indiana with middling results before graduating in 2021 and committing to Washington after a time in the transfer portal. Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer had been Penix’s offensive coordinator in 2019.

In the last of his six college seasons, the former Indiana transfer did a lot in offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb’s system, completing 364 of 556 passes for 4,906 yards, 36 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 106.7. Penix was the NCAA’s most prolific deep passer in the 2023 season, completing 51 of 117 (!) passes of 20 or more air yards, 16 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a passer rating of 105.1. When pressured last season, Penix completed just 59 of 141 passes for 1,072 yards, six touchdowns, five interceptions, and a passer rating of 68.0.

The drop in efficiency under pressure is something to pay attention to when reviewing Penix as a prospect. In addition, Penix had multiple season-ending injuries during his four seasons at Indiana, including two ACL tears (in the same knee). Another thing that will give evaluators pause is Penix’ performance in Washington’s 34-13 CFP National Championship loss to Michigan. He completed 27 of 51 passes for 255 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 63.0 against a defense that’s pretty much NFL-ready in a schematic sense.

Penix’s medicals were good at the combine, and he ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, so we can probably throw the injury stuff aside. Penix’s primary NFL challenge will be to refine and improve his feel in the pocket.

PLUSES

— Deep passing volume is ridiculous; attempted 117 throws of 20 or more air yards last season.

— Can zip the ball into tight windows at all levels of the field.

— Has all the pitches; will change the speed and arc of his throws.

— Easy (if slightly elongated) delivery.

MINUSES

— Reaction to pressure can vary wildly; accuracy suffers when he’s moved off his spot.

— Will speed up his clock too much at times and must guard against playing frenetically.

— Several bad misses against Michigan in the national championship game, and that’s probably the closest he’s seen to an NFL defense.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire