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Prospects to watch: Washington Huskies edition

Taking a look at two NFL prospects.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

In the Sugar Bowl, the Washington Huskies knocked off the University of Texas 37-31. They’ll take on the Michigan Wolverines in the National Championship on Monday. I decided to take a look at two of their most hyped players. Be sure to also check out Carson Caufiled’s piece on Michigan prospects.

Michael Penix Jr.

Measurables:

Ht: 6’3”

Weight: 213 LBS

Strengths:

The Washington signal-caller has an absolute laser of an arm. His quick release and high-velocity throws allow him to hit his receivers easily. This also allows him to fire passes into tight windows with ease. His high-velocity release allows him to make throws that some QBs can’t.

Penix Jr. is a pocket passer who makes good decisions and limits mistakes. This is highlighted by his low interception numbers. However, he isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield. He showcases the ability to throw beautiful deep balls that will leave fans in awe. This season, he had 1,743 of his yards come from plays that were 20+ yards down the field.

Weaknesses:

Many fans probably don’t see why some analysts are low on Penix Jr. Besides, it’s hard to tell on TV when he throws a beautiful deep ball and absolute lasers to his receivers. However, the weaknesses are there and are very scary. The biggest red flag for Penix Jr. is his injury-riddled history. He’s had four season-ending injuries, including two torn ACLs, a clavicle injury, and a dislocated shoulder. His body has taken an absolute beating playing the sport, and it’s concerning how just one more injury could end his career.

The next biggest flaw for Penix is his wonky mechanics. I think some of these wonky mechanics result from various injuries, but some are just how he plays. I’m not a fan of Penix Jr.’s side-arm release. While it helps him get the ball put quicker, the movement is very taxing on the arm. I also believe it possesses sloppy footwork that needs to be fixed. He doesn’t always step into his throws, and it will lead to him missing easy completions.

Penix Jr. also has poor hip torque. He doesn’t fully rotate throwing the football. If you watch guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, they use so much of their lower body, especially their hips. He doesn’t use his lower half; he just tries to “arm” it in there.

Besides the mechanics, Penix Jr. is a statue in the pocket. For modern-day QBs, it is essential to be able to navigate the pocket and extend plays. The best of the best, like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen, are incredibly special because of their improvising skills. They have a great knowledge and feel of the pocket, and this allows them to give plays a second life. Penix Jr. does not possess these traits and will stand in the pocket for an exuberant amount of time. This allows defenders time to get pressure and virtually end the play.

The Bottom Line

Penix Jr. has a talented arm, which allows him to make some of the prettiest throws in college football. He’s a pure pocket passer that excels at hitting his receivers on target. However, Penix Jr. is a worrisome prospect with the risky medicals, wonky mechanics, and zero creativity. His ideal situation is a 49ers or Dolphins-esque system where he is surrounded by strong O-line play and speedy wideouts. This will allow him to sit back and fire darts into his receivers. Overall, I would give Penix Jr. a round-three grade, but I see him being selected in the second due to positional value.

Rome Odunze

Measurables:

Ht: 6’3”

Weight: 215

Strengths

Odunze is a high-IQ receiver with a great feel for the game. He has a great recognition of zone and man coverage. When defenders play zone coverage, he has a great feel for the open holes. Against man coverage, he’s able to use his ball skills and leverage to haul in the football.

The Husky excels at hauling in the 50/50 ball. On film, Odunze flashed the ability to haul in the football when there is a defender on him. Washington would often draw up fades or go balls, and Odunze would come down with them. Odunze hauled in 20 contested catches, which was the first in the nation per PFF. Lastly, he has reliable hands, with only three drops in the entire season.

Odunze has shown some break-tackle ability. This allows him to gain some more yards after contact.

Weaknesses

The only real downside to Odunze is his speed is nothing to write home about. While he isn’t slow, he isn’t fast, either. His speed is slightly above average and is good enough. While he’s showcased some points where he can create YAC, it is consistent enough. Usually, after he catches the ball, that’s when he’s getting tackled or downed.

The Bottom Line

Odunze is a reliable, smart, and physical receiver. His specialty is the contested catch, but he has shown the ability to do more than just that. His awareness and understanding of the game make him an appealing prospect for any NFL offense. Odunze is a difficult matchup for any CB and is a difference-maker. Overall, I would give Odunze a top-15 grade and find it hard to see him failing in the NFL.


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