My Two Cents: Still a Believer that Michael Penix Jr. Next Left-Hander Drafted in First Round
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A rare thing happened Thursday night during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With the fifth overall pick, the Miami Dolphins drafted Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
He was only the eighth left-handed quarterback ever to be drafted in the first round.
That's not many.
Elite left-handed quarterbacks don't come around very often. Tagavailoa was the first one drafted in the first round since Tim Tebow in 2010. Of the seven drafted early before him, only Michael Vick (2001) had a successful career. Other lefties drafted in later rounds or supplemental drafts had great careers — think Steve Young, Kenny Stabler, Boomer Esiason, Mark Brunnell, Jim Zorn — but that's about it.
But here's where the story comes home. In my opinion, the next left-hander that gets drafted in the first round will be Indiana's Michael Penix Jr.
He's that good.
Sure, I understand he's had an issue staying healthy during his first two years at Indiana, but the talent is all still there, especially now that he's added weight and muscle to his frame. He's going to post some big numbers before his time is done in Bloomington.
"When you have a quarterback, you can win games, and they have a quarterback,'' and NFL scout told me during last night's draft when we were talking about other players who will likely get picked on Friday or Saturday. "He's definitely an NFL quarterback, and he could very well be a big-time NFL quarterback. I love his arm, and he's mobile, which is all the rage these days.''
There are others who think that, too. The first person to think big on Penix and tell me all about it was Jayson Roberts, his high school coach at Tampa Bay Tech. When we sat down to talk in Florida last August, he raved about the young prodigy.
“He’s going to do great things at Indiana,’’ said Roberts, his high school coach at Tampa Bay Tech, where Penix threw 61 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in his two years as a starter. “He was the best high school quarterback I’ve ever seen in my life. I expect him to be great, be a Heisman (Trophy) finalist and be a first-round draft pick. That’s how good I think he is.’’
I've seen enough to believe that, too, There's still a lot of unknowns about what's going to happen in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so let's book it here now. During the 2022 NFL Draft, we'll all be in Las Vegas to hear Penix's name get called somewhere in the first round.
Crazy? I don't think so. I'm that much of a believer.
Left-handed quarterbacks drafted in the first round
- Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (2020): The Dolphins selected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. As a freshman, Tagovailoa completed 49 of 77 passes for 636 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions as a backup to Jalen Hurts. He took over as the starter during his sophomore year and posted 3,966 yards with 43 TD and 6 INT during 15 games in 2018. On pace for an even better season, with 2,849 yards, 33 TD and just 3 INT over nine games in 2019, Tagovailoa suffered a gruesome hip injury that finished his college career.
- Tim Tebow, Florida (2010): The former Heisman Trophy winner from Florida was drafted by Denver with the 28th overall pick in 2010. He never made much of an impact in the NFL, though he did win a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers during his short time in Denver. For a time, Tebow was America’s most influential athlete, according to a poll of 1,100 adults back in 2012, But only two years after becoming a starting NFL quarterback and winning seven of eight games in exhilarating fashion, he was cast aside by the Broncos, New York Jets and New England Patriots. Just like that, he was out of football
- Matt Leinart, USC (2006): After winning a Hesiman Trophy at USC, Leinart was drafted by Arizona with the 10th overall pick in 2006. He started 11 games his rookie year and five more in 2008, but never made much of an impact. He was cut after his fourth season.
- Michael Vick, Virginia Tech (2001): After winning a Heisman Trophy at Virginia Tech, he was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons. He had a rifle for an arm and was always the fastest man on the field. He became a star in Atlanta and was one of the league's most popular players during his six years there. He became vilified after he was arrested and went to jail for running a dog-fighting operation, but returned to play six more years in the NFL, mostly with the Philadelphia Eagles. He threw for more than 22,000 yards as a pro, with 132 touchdown passes.
- Cade McNown, UCLA (1999): Drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 12th overall pick, Cade McNown was a bust in the NFL. He played just two seasons for the Bears with limited success and was cut after the 2000 season. He never played in the NFL again.
- Todd Marinovich, USC (1991): Marinovich was drafted with the 24th overall pick by the Los Angeles Raiders, but he never amounted to anything in the NFL either. He dealt with drug suspensions early in his career and never amounted to anything. He played in only eight NFL games.
- Terry Baker, Oregon State (1963): Baker, the Heisman Trophy winner, was the first overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams. He played three seasons in the NFL, and then finished his disappointing pro career in Canada.
- Frankie Albert, Stanford (1942): Albert was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the 10th overall pick in 1942, but didn't start his NFL career until 1946 because he served in the military for four years during World War II.