We saw no players taken from Washington last week in the NFL draft for the first time since 2009 largely because so many players chose to come back instead. 3 questions...
1. How many UW players get drafted in the 1st round next year?
2. How many total players get selected (with names)?
3. What player who has yet to start for UW would you bet most heavily on to be a future draft pick?
Max Vrooman- I ran this first question as a Twitter poll to gauge the temperature on UW Twitter and unsurprisingly the majority of responses were for at least 2 Huskies to go in the 1st round. I’m going to be a little conservative and say that only Rome Odunze makes it that high. You could make arguments that any of Michael Penix, Bralen Trice, and Jalen McMillan will join him but I think Penix/Trice don’t quite have the athletic pedigree and McMillan’s production/skill set isn’t quite as valuable as Rome’s.
I’ll say though that Trice goes in the 2nd round and Penix and McMillan are in the 3rd joined by Troy Fautanu. I would love to have ZTF regain his 2020 form and become a high draft pick but I think it’s more likely that we don’t quite see that burst again and he ends up in say the 6th round. Some of the others who will hopefully have a chance to at least get combine invites are Devin Culp, Matteo Mele, Tuli Letuligasenoa, Edefuan Ulofoshio, Asa Turner, and Dom Hampton. I’ll say that Ulofoshio and Tuli also get drafted somewhere on day 3 to make it 7 draft picks.
The easy way out for a player yet to start at UW would be to pick a transfer who has started elsewhere. More in the spirit of the question though I’ll choose Denzel Boston given the way he has seemingly exploded at a highly coveted NFL position and with NFL size. It was a close call though overall some of the younger OL members like Geirean Hatchett or Parker Brailsford who really showed out well in spring ball and seem like clear future starters along the OL.
Gabey Lucas- I’m gonna have to think about this more in-depth for a bit, but to start I’m going to employ my favorite technique for up the river down the river or any trick-taking card game, which is to get way too hyped about the potential of my hand, then remember that it’s easier to sluff good cards than make up for losing out on one you were planning on taking, and say that of the four you mentioned, two will go in the later first round provided Mike stays healthy.
My gut is that if Penix can stay healthy again, his injury woes at Indiana will be more of an asterisk for GMs to consider rather than full on red flags. And by the end of last year people nationally were starting to realize that he’s just straight up really good. At like, pretty much everything you want in a quarterback. He has arm strength, he’s accurate, he’s smart as hell, he can drop dimes on the run, he’s mobile, he has good pocket presence, he can be a goldfish when he does make mistakes... He’s a bit skinny, is a lefty, and drops his right arm in his throwing motion a bit, but, in the words of Allen Leach, “that’s just detail.”
I think this latest generation of quarterbacks who’ve been drafted the last 3-7 years or so has really forced GMs to acknowledge that that rigid, conservative old school approach of going after dudes cuz they just kinda feel like a classic quarterback isn’t actually so successful. It feels like they’re finally starting to realize that looking like a QB prototype isn’t as important as just repeatedly doing what a good QB does at a high level — and that’s what Mike does. For that reason, I really think he could be a first rounder where if this were 10 years ago he probably couldn’t (cuz 10 years ago he’d be 12 right?! HaHA I crack myself up).I think Trice probably needs to become more consistently havoc-y to make it into the first, but that if he does add that, he could be the highest pick. Still, I’ll hedge bets against that and say he’s the third Husky off the board after Rome and Mike.
Lastly, I feel like forces are working against JMac here — NFL GMs have become wiser I think as far as the lesser marginal in-game impact dropoff from receivers between rounds versus many other positions, and that means you really have to be a freak among freaks. This isn’t an insult to McMillan to just admit that despite being certifiably awesome, he just doesnt have that same size that, when combined with both their speed and skillsets, makes Rome the more likely option to go off the board sooner. It’s not his fault really, everything that he can control works in his favor — but he just doesn’t have that same frame that would put him over the edge. (edited)
Mark Schafer- I read a scouting report a few months ago that said Penix has the physical gifts to be an early round guy but as we saw last year, some of the reads he would make didn’t make sense. He would often trust his gut a little too much and at the next level, you can’t do that, but as Gabey said, he has a short memory which is an intangible that the great QBs have. There is room to develop and this year he needs to show that. I would put him at 2nd or 3rd round, if only because GMs would probably be a little scared of his injury history.
In regards to Trice, he is an awesome edge rusher and he has all the tangibles that you look for, the size, speed and strength are all there! He might be a mid 2nd or 3rd round pick.
Rome has been adding muscle in the weight room in the offseason and that might translate into on field accolades. The freakishly athletic receivers all are big, in addition to being quick and I think if he has another big year, Rome could be a late first!
JMac is a sure handed guy, who didn’t drop many passes last year and showed great speed and ability after the catch which would make him an asset on any NFL team. The knock on him is his frame, which might be a question mark for GMs. I would put him at a late third, early 4th.
Max Vrooman- It has been interesting to throw this out there before everyone put out their way-too-early mock drafts and now compare the results. The most consistent names have clearly been Penix, Odunze, and Trice probably in that order. It seems hard for me to fathom that Penix has a better statistical season than he did last year just because it’s hard for anyone to put up bigger numbers. If Penix takes any kind of step back combined with his lack of elite athleticism (even if he’s a solid athlete), advanced age for a draft prospect, and injury history then it wouldn’t shock me if he ends up as more of a 2nd/3rd rounder somewhat similar to Hendon Hooker this year.
The other 2 names that have shown up in at least one early 2024 1st round projection are ZTF and Roger Rosengarten. If ZTF does in fact end up as a 1st round pick then it means he probably had 12+ sacks and was a consensus All-American which of course would mean awesome things for both him and the Huskies. But 2020 was ultimately a 3-game sample size against bad offensive lines and he had a major injury in between. Hoping for the best but seems crazy to view him as that kind of prospect right now (and I don’t think it’s a coincidence the guys plugged into the Pac-12 aren’t thinking that way.
Rosengarten is maybe the most interesting one to me. Given how he looked in his first full season as a starter I could absolutely see him developing into that type of prospect. I’m just kind of selfishly hoping he does so in 2025 rather than next year. There’s also some PTSD as a Husky fan when it comes to early 1st round projections for offensive linemen after how things turned out for both Trey Adams and Jaxson Kirkland. (edited)
Gabey Lucas- Agree with l i t e r a l l y everything you just said.
Max Vrooman- Hard to keep a conversation going after that.