“Other” Rookie QB Can’t Be Ruled Out for Vikings

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Thirteen weeks ago, all the rage for the Minnesota Vikings’ possible next quarterback involved Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.

“Other” Rookie QB Can’t Be Ruled Out for Vikings

The left-handed flamethrower dazzled in the College Football Semifinal, helping the Huskies chip off Texas with a remarkable performance. Folks envisioned Penix Jr. feeding the rock to Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and T.J. Hockenson on Sundays, and most agreed the plan would be pretty sweet.

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But then the National Championship arrived, Penix Jr. and his Huskies flopped, and Michigan won — with J.J. McCarthy at the QB1 helm, a man who would later take over frontrunner status to become the Vikings’ next quarterback. And after the Vikings’ splashy trade with the Houston Texans 2.5 weeks ago, most of the team’s fans settled on a Top 5 quarterback prospect as the probable outcome in the draft, putting all things Penix Jr. on the backburner.

Fast forward to April, and Penix Jr. as a viable rookie quarterback option cannot be ruled out. Why? Well, the team is reportedly conducting a private visit with the 23-year-old. Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz tweeted Monday, 24 days before the NFL draft, “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. Penix will have top 30s with the Broncos, Falcons, Raiders and Commanders, per multiple sources.”

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Penix Jr., meanwhile, produced a sublime Pro Day last week, notching a 4.45-second forty-yard dash and a superb throwing session. Some draft pundits even took his Round 1 stock off life support. He may indeed go in the first 32 picks.

Generally speaking, Penix Jr.’s chances of becoming a Viking may be small compared to Drake Maye (North Carolina) or J.J. McCarthy, for example. Kevin O’Connell said on The Pat McAfee Show last week, “I think accuracy is one trait that quarterbacks need to have.” McAfee then immediately inserted Penix Jr.’s name, and O’Connell just kind of smirked, appearing to dismiss the idea.

There’s also the matter of injury(ies). He played two healthy seasons consecutively, but before that, the injury list was expansive. In 2018, he tore his ACL. A year later, his season was cut short by a sternoclavicular joint ailment. Then in 2020, he tore the other ACL. And in 2021, an AC joint injury ended his campaign. Optimists will maintain that the last two seasons are a reasonable indicator that Penix Jr. is “good to go” in the NFL. All the injuries be damned: some NFL team will convince itself that he is the way, and then we shall see if the injuries arrive akin to 2018 through 2021.

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Yet, do the Vikings, a team desperately overdue to draft a franchise quarterback from the NFL Draft, want to attach their fate to an oft-injured quarterback? There’s always the chance he’s injured during his first year as a starter, and folks wonder or say aloud, “Well, we knew this was a thing going in.”

The Penix Jr. perk — if accuracy and injury history are for the birds — is draft placement. Minnesota probably won’t need to trade up the board for him, instead hanging on to its No. 11 and 23 picks while not leveraging future draft capital. More capital will be needed to land Maye or McCarthy.

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Overall, Penix Jr. is not a frontrunner to lead the Vikings during life after Kirk Cousins, but he’s in play if the club is meeting with him privately.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.