Vikings Eyeing Dark Horse QB Prospect Compared to Patrick Mahomes

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings are taking an extra look at Washington quarterback prospect Michael Penix Jr. after his impressive pro day last week.

“Things are heating up for Washington QB Michael Penix Jr: Sources say he had dinner with the #Giants in Seattle after his Pro Day, followed by a private workout with the #Vikings in Seattle,” Bleacher Report insider Jordan Schultz reported on April 1.

While Penix’s arm talent as a pocket passer is well-documented and scouted, the 23-year-old stunned the draft world with an impressive sub-4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash.

The biggest questions surrounding Penix’s draft status have been his age, health and athleticism, the latter of which he addressed at his pro day.

Penix is considered a fringe first-round prospect but is a dark horse to be selected in the middle of the first round, garnering a recent statistical comparison to Patrick Mahomes.

Michael Penix Shares Traits With Patrick Mahomes, Earns Tua Tagovailoa Comparison

Michael Penix NFL Draft

GettyWashington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has a chance to be a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft.

On April 1, ESPN’s Bill Connelly revealed data on the unique traits of the top six quarterback prospects this year and offered their most fitting pro comparisons based on those traits.

Penix, lauded for his ability to avoid pressure and sacks in the pocket, found himself in divided company with Mahomes and Matt Barkley.

“His 1.9% sack rate ranks fifth out of 331, and his 6.7% sacks-to-pressure ratio ranks second. He almost never runs downfield either (his 1.8% scramble rate ranks 290th),” Connelly wrote. “Here’s another fun floor-and-ceiling pair for you: Matt Barkley and Patrick Mahomes. Both quarterbacks have produced sack rates under 4.5%, scramble rates under 6%, a strong sacks-to-pressures ratio under 15% and a success rate over 40%.”

Analytics have shown that quarterbacks play as big of a part in sack rates as their offensive lines. It’s a strong predictor of success in the NFL. For example, Justin Fields struggled to clean up his college sack rate (23.6%) at the NFL level. His big-play potential was overwhelmed by his struggles to reduce negative plays.

Penix is a safer option than Fields when considering their on-field performance.

He is arguably one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks when graded solely as a pocket passer. He has the arm strength, touch on longer-developing routes and a fearlessness throwing deep passes. He’s also adept at moving in the pocket, resetting his feet without missing a beat and limited the negative plays throughout his career.

However, scrambling and acrobatic off-platform throws that are more defining of Mahomes are not in Penix’s wheelhouse. draft analyst Lance Zuerlein likened Penix to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — a similar comparison an NFL executive gave Penix during his final season of college.

“His accuracy is undeniable. And it’s not just that he rarely misses throws, it’s that he delivers such a catchable ball. He actually reminds me a bit of Tua. Not just that they’re both left-handed, but you’re confident in both making the right read, and delivering a good ball,” the executive told Schultz. “I believe Penix is going to be a very good NFL quarterback. He has the full package of what it takes to succeed. He’s smart, people believe in him, and again, he’s just so accurate.”

Michael Penix Should Not a Top-10 Target for Vikings

Michael Penix Jr, Washington

GettyFormer Washington QB Michael Penix Jr throwing at the NFL Combine.

Overall, Penix checks a lot of boxes for what O’Connell looks for in a quarterback and offers a high floor with the Vikings.

Penix can deliver the ball on time to proven playmakers who strive to win one-on-one battles across the field.

However, he’s a quarterback who takes largely what’s given to him or will throw the ball away. It’s not a bad trait, but it does limit upside considering the untapped athleticism that Penix has chosen to not be an exploit of his game.

Penix makes sense for the Vikings as a lower-cost option that they could land without giving up any draft capital.

However, the pre-draft hype on Penix is only growing which could drive up his draft stock.

“Thought that the Michael Penix Jr & Drake Maye pro days really showed the contrast in the QBs. Penix is a machine throwing it over and over. Maye loses control of his throws more than any of the top QBs in consideration,” Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms said in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “Penix is being underrated. He should be a Top 20 pick.”