Update: Senior Bowl QBs Nix, Penix in the spotlight

Nov 12, 2022; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) embraces Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) after a game at Autzen Stadium. The Huskies won, 37-34.  Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2022; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) embraces Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) after a game at Autzen Stadium. The Huskies won, 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Senior Bowl practices wrapped up Thursday in Mobile, Ala. with some players improving their draft stock but we may wait to see Saturday's game (1 p.m., ET, NFL Network) to say anything definitive about the always-popular quarterback position, where Oregon's Bo Nix and Washington's Michael Penix Jr. remain the focus of attention and controversy.. 

Going into the week, NFLDraftScout.com listed Nix (No. 16 overall, No. 4 QB) a little higher than most and  Penix (No. 52 overall, No. 6 QB) pretty much the same as others. They both are on the National roster. 

During three days of practice, Penix impressed with his pocket presence and a natural ability to spin the ball with a surprising pop. Nix improved day to day, but his most impressive achievement might have been after practice Wednesday when he showed leadership qualities off the field.

Highlights of daily workouts here

Player agents told NFLDraftScout.com that quarterbacks complained early in the week about the footballs being slippery and Nix did indeed seem to have problems. After the Wednesday practice, Nix sought out some footballs that were properly conditioned for quarterbacks to handle. Sure enough, ball-handling seemed to be much smoother during the Thursday workouts.

It might be debatable whether Nix or Penix helped himself the most. It also might be academic because regardless how good Penix looks -- and he had some great moments this week -- NFL teams are wary about his history of multiple knee surgeries. The film that might mean the most will be MRIs at the Indianapolis Combine at the end of the month.

 Other quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl are South Carolina's Spencer Rattler (NDS No. 236 overall, No. 11 QB), Tulane's Michael Pratt (NDS No. 108 overall, No. 7 QB), Notre Dame's Sam Hartman (No. 179 overall, No. 9 QB), South Alabama's Carter Bradley (NDS No. 269 overall, No. 14 QB) and Tennessee's Joe Milton III (NDS No. 168 overall, No. 8 QB)

After this week's practice we will probably boost Rattler higher on the list, a Back to the Future move of sorts.

Lest we forget, Rattler's roller coaster career included being the No. 1 recruit from the 2019 high school class when Oklahoma beat out a long list of top schools to sign him. By 2021 Rattler was a preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy. But he was benched in a game against Texas when Caleb Williams -- yes that Caleb Williams -- took the job. Rattler transfered to South Carolina where he has showed flashes of greatness over the last two seasons.

Rattler was especially impressive Thursday in red zone 7-on-7 drills. He wowed onlookers with a back-shoulder fade to Louisville receiver Jamari Thrash (NDS 106 overall, No. 19 WR) for a touchdown. Rattler squeezed the ball into a tight window. That helped validate a a strong Wednesday performance as he showed a strong arm and accuracy.-

FWIW, USC's Caleb Williams, with his 2022 Heisman Trophy and Oklahoma transfer coach Lincoln Riley, is rated as the top draft prospect by most. We see it a little differently with Williams as the No. 3 overall player and No. 2 QB, behind our top-rated Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR, Ohio State) and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, No. 2 overall and our No. 1 QB.

Maye was in Mobile this week but not as a participant. 

Considering Penix' medical issures, Nix is probably the biggest beneficiary from the Senior Bowl although more so for non believers because NDS already rated him in the middle of round one. 

See full NDS ratings here.

 

 

No college quarterback started more games than Nix. His career began in August 2019, when he outdueled Oregon’s Justin Herbert, helping Auburn defeat the Ducks in Arlington, Texas. His career ended Jan. 1, 2024, when he led those Ducks to a 46-6 win over Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl.

 

Down south, Nix is known as the guy who struggled mightily at Auburn. But he’s nowhere near the same player since transferring to Oregon. Nix threw 74 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions over the past two seasons, helping transform Oregon into a national power once again under former Georgi Bulldogs defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.

 

Nix played for five different offensive schemes in his lengthy college career, which at least shows he’s adaptable.

 

“Five offenses in five years with five different play-callers, so I’ve been around the block,” Nix said Tuesday morning. He credited each of his coaches and explained he took bits and pieces from each during his emergence into a legitimate prospect.

 

“It shows the adaptability and the comfort I have in being uncomfortable and having to learn new things,” Nix said. “I took it as a fun challenge. I’m a football junkie, so I enjoy learning different plays and how you can name the same play different ways … Maybe one day if I get to coach in high school or something, I’ll get to put all their offenses together and make them my own.”

 

Meantime, he is shooting for a career as a player in the NFL.

 

In 2020, Penix led Indiana to its best football season in 53 years.

 

The Hoosiers finished No. 12. He was named team MVP, even after a torn ACL ended his year in Game 6 of an eight-game slate shortened by COVID-19. But in the following year, Penix suffered another season-ending injury, a dislocated joint in his throwing shoulder in Indiana’s fifth game. The Hoosiers went 2-10.

 

While recovering from a knee injury before the 2021 season, Penix struggling with the weight of uncertainty. He was extremely candid in interviews about what he had been feeling back at Indiana.

 

“It’s hard,” a teary-eyed Penix said in April of 2021. “I was scared to play, but I still tried to. It was just a lot. In my head, I said if I’d gotten hurt again, I was gonna quit football.”

 

That is not the kind of talk that engenders confidence in NFL teams. He talked about leaning on his family and his loved ones to persevere, adding, “I just love the game so much now.”

 

“I didn’t want to give it up,” he said, “but obviously going through what I was going through, it was hard. But I couldn’t give up because I have so many people depending on me and looking up to me. So, if I can play, I was gonna play. Unless the doctor said I couldn’t.”

 

After his story was published, there was chatter about how NFL teams might view Penix’s words in the draft process. Some teams might use his words against him, and there might be questions about how the QB would handle another injury.

 

It is against that background that Penix tries to convince NFL teams that he is worth a high first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

 

Here are the ratings by NDS at this point (check back with NFLDraftScout.com, they WILL change): 

 

Overall, Player, School, Position, QB rating, Height, Wt, Class, 40, Proj. Rd.

Rnk Player School Pos. Pos. Rnk Ht Wt Class 40 Proj. Rnd
2
Drake Maye North Carolina QB 1 6043 230 rSo 4.62 1
3
Caleb Williams Southern California QB 2 6005 215 Jr 4.48 1
4
Jayden Daniels LSU QB 3 6032 210 rSr 4.52 1
16
Bo Nix Oregon QB 4 6017 218 rSr 4.62 1-2
18
J.J. McCarthy Michigan QB 5 6031 202 Jr 4.52 1
52
Michael Penix Jr. Washington QB 6 6024 212 rSr 4.64 2
108
Michael Pratt Tulane QB 7 6023 216 Sr 4.7 3-4
163
Joe Milton III Tennessee QB 8 6050 235 rSr 4.65 5
179
Sam Hartman Notre Dame QB 9 6010 209 rSr 4.76 5-6
200
Austin Reed Western Kentucky QB 10 6007 223 rSr 4.73 6
236
Spencer Rattler South Carolina QB 11 6001 219 rSr 4.74 6-7
244
Taulia Tagovailoa Maryland QB 12 5102 200 rSr 4.73 7
261
Jordan Travis Florida State QB 13 6005 212 rSr 4.54 7-HPFA
269
Carter Bradley South Alabama QB 14 6030 218 rSr 4.87 7-HPFA

 

 

 

 

 

 

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