Sports Illustrated Predicts Atlanta Falcons Draft Pick Could Be Biggest Draft Bust

Sports Illustrated raises concerns about this Falcons' draft pick's injury history, fit with the team and the Falcons ability to prepare this rookie to start.
Apr 26, 2024; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; The setup for the press conference used by the Atlanta Falcons to introduce first round draft pick quarterback Michael Penix Jr (not shown)  at the Falcons training complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2024; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; The setup for the press conference used by the Atlanta Falcons to introduce first round draft pick quarterback Michael Penix Jr (not shown) at the Falcons training complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In a recent projection, Sports Illustrated identified "Five 2024 NFL Draft Picks Most Likely to Be a Bust in the NFC." SI highlighted concerns about the Atlanta Falcons first round selection, 8th overall, of quarterback Michael Penix Jr., suggesting that he has the potential to be the draft's biggest bust.

Much of the pre-draft concern was around Penix injury history which is derived from his first 4 seasons playing QB at Indiana where he suffered multiple season-ending injuries, including tearing his right ACL twice. After transferring to the University of Washington, he stayed healthy for the final two seasons of his six year college career, which resulted in Penix starting 28 straight games for the Huskies.

Michael Penix Jr. College Stats

While there may be uncertainty about Penix's durability, his upward growth and trajectory as the starting QB at the University of Washington was impressive. Over the last two years as a starter at Washington, Penix durability and stats are exceptional:

  • 28 games over two seasons starting at QB
  • 9544 passing yards
  • 725 completions
  • 65.4 completion %
  • 8.6 average yards per attempt
  • 67 Touchdown passes
  • 19 interceptions
  • 154.2 passing efficiency rating

During his senior year at Washington in 2023, Penix led the entire nation with 4903 passing yards, and ranked third with 36 passing TDs. He proved to be a team leader while captaining the Huskies to a 14 win season. Their only loss came in the College Football Playoff National Championship when they were beaten by Michigan 34-13.

Transition To The Pros

May 10, 2024; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Penix Jr (9) passes the ball during Rookie Minicamp at the Falcons Training Camp.   Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
May 10, 2024; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Penix Jr (9) passes the ball during Rookie Minicamp at the Falcons Training Camp. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In identifying Penix as a potential draft bust, SI identified:

  • Penix's injury history
  • whether he was a fit for the Falcons, who just signed Kurt Cousins to 4 year $180M contract with $100M guaranteed
  • if the Falcons can provide Penix with enough first team reps in practice to advance his learning curve to the pros

NFL.com also noted that scouts had concerns about Penix's durability and ability to avoid injury: “He played well (in 2023) and hasn’t missed a game since he got to Washington, but you just can’t turn a blind eye to all the games he’s missed and all the injuries he’s had.” - NFC area scout

Prior to the draft, Penix penned a compelling piece for The Players Tribune to boost his draft stock where he wrote "A Letter to NFL GMs" focusing on his personal grit, past hurdles and success, and explaining why he would be a winner at the pro level.

READ MORE: Just one more conversation about the Falcons and Michael Penix Jr.

Projection

Unless Cousins gets hurt, dont expect to see Penix as a full time starter until at least his third season. This means waiting until the 2026 season when he will be 26 years old. Expect Atlanta to try to utilize Penix for some spot plays meant to confuse defenses, designed opportunities, or mop-up duty as the No. 2 quarterback.

The Falcons have drafted a ton of young and explosive players, so Penix is set to build chemistry with his young teammates as he waits behind the veteran QB who was brought in to win now.

Taken as a whole, the scenario of drafting an older QB who spent 6 years in college and is seen as the one of the most NFL ready QBs, after just signing a veteran starting QB to a multi-year deal, seems like a waste of top 10 draft capital for a team that has the potential to win immediatley. It also has the potential to create a myriad of personnel and chemistry issues, including between the Penix and Cousins.

This all spells trouble for the success of Penix in Atlanta.

READ MORE: Dan Orlovsky has change of heart in reviewing Falcons' decision to draft Michael Penix Jr.

READ MORE: NFL analyst roasts Falcons over Michael Penix Jr. selection in viral Tweet


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Chris Pirrone

CHRIS PIRRONE