Polarizing Michael Penix Jr. drawing heavy public interest

Tue Apr 23 2:06pm ET
Field Level Media

SEATTLE -- Where Michael Penix Jr. lands in this week's NFL draft has been one of the most polarizing debates over the past several months.

Former NFL quarterback and local radio show host Brock Huard has flooded the airwaves during the draft cycle discussing Penix's unique arm talent vs. concerns about his injury history. And that debate has expanded nationally, as analysts project Penix anywhere from a top-10 selection to not hearing his name called until Day 2.

That major potential swing is why Penix won't be on-hand with the other marquee prospects in Detroit on Thursday night.

The public has gotten into the action as well, making Penix the most highly wagered-on prospect in this year's draft in various markets. At BetMGM, Penix has drawn the most total bets and money on any individual draft position, with his Under set at 32.5.

That would put Penix on the fringe of being a first-round pick or going to bed Thursday night still wondering who he will be slinging the football for next season. The Under has been backed by 62 percent of the total bets and 79 percent of the money at the sportsbook despite the -250 odds.

Most Bet to go Under draft position (tickets)

1. Michael Penix, Washington QB, 32.5

2. Bo Nix, Oregon QB, 32.5

3. Adonai Mitchell, Georgia WR, 27.5

Most Bet to go Under draft position (handle)

1. Michael Penix 32.5

2. Rome Odunze 8.5

3. Laiatu Latu 16.5

Quarterbacks are typically the most hotly debated prospects, and this year is no different. After the trio of Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye, analysts are all over the map in their estimations of where Penix, Nix and J.J. McCarthy will land.

McCarthy has been the second most popular choice at BetMGM, where his draft Over/Under position is 5.5. The former Michigan star has drawn the most Over bets at 74 percent.

Among the three highly debated quarterbacks, favorites to land each of them have emerged.

Las Vegas is the biggest liability for Penix. He has been backed by 24.6 percent of the money to go to the Raiders, who own the 13th overall pick.

Meanwhile, McCarthy is favored to go to Minnesota. The Vikings currently hold the 11th selection and have been backed by 24.6 percent of the money to grab McCarthy. However, the Denver Broncos remain the book's biggest liability in the McCarthy market.

Denver is also seen as a likely destination for Nix. The former Oregon and Auburn quarterback has been backed by 44.3 percent of the money to wind up in the Mile High city, while the Los Angeles Rams are the book's biggest liability related to Nix.

The Broncos currently hold the No. 12 overall pick while the Rams sit at No. 19.

Team to Draft Bo Nix

--Highest Ticket%: Broncos 19.4%

--Highest Handle%: Broncos 44.3%

--Biggest Liability: Rams

--Favorite: Broncos -176

Team to Draft J.J. McCarthy

--Highest Ticket%: Vikings 20.9%

--Highest Handle%: Vikings 24.6%

--Biggest Liability: Broncos

--Favorite: Vikings +115

Team to Draft Michael Penix Jr.

--Highest Ticket%: Raiders 26.1%

--Highest Handle%: Raiders 24.6%

--Biggest Liability: Raiders

--Favorite: Raiders +300

Penix, who turns 24 on May 8, remains the draft's biggest wild card. He has arguably the most natural arm talent in this year's deep quarterback class, but his draft status is murky due to four injuries in four years.

After beginning his career at Indiana, Penix transferred to Washington, a 4-8 program when he signed before the 2022 season. He took the Huskies to the College Football Playoff national title game this year, which Washington lost to Michigan. His two seasons there: 11-2 and 14-1.

But before he arrived in Seattle, he had two season-ending shoulder injuries and two ACL tears. Penix addressed that history in a piece for The Players Tribune this week.

"I hear it all the time. 'He's been injured, what happens if he gets injured again?' Haven't I shown you what that looks like? Haven't I put almost 2,000 plays on tape since my last injury? ...

"Truth is, I'd be more worried if I had never been injured. We don't all come back the same. I can't speak for those that have never gone through anything. But I can speak on me. I've seen how deep my foundation is. I know the storms I'm prepared to weather. For most people that'd be the end of their story. But there's more to my story, and I own every page of it."

--Derek Harper is Field Level Media's CEO Media and has been reporting on the NFL and NFL draft for three decades.

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