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ESPN analyst mocks college star QB to Rams in first round

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By: Kenneth Arthur

Set Number: X164476 TK1

ESPN’s Michael Tannenbaum has the L.A. Rams picking Michael Penix, Jr. at pick 19 in his mock draft

The L.A. Rams have two quarterbacks who are guaranteed to be on the 2024 roster, veterans Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo, and Les Snead has let it be known that Stetson Bennett will return and give it another shot to make the team after a disappointing rookie season on the inactive list. This won’t stop people from speculating that quarterback is a potential need for the Rams in the draft, perhaps as early as the first round, and maybe there’s still some sound logic to those ideas. The only real question that matters is, “Do you think you’re stealing a franchise quarterback at 19?”

The odds aren’t good that Bennett is a franchise quarterback.

ESPN’s Michael Tannenbaum has the Rams selecting Washington quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. in the first round, an interesting option that would give the rookie at least one year to develop and stay healthy behind the scenes. L.A. will also need a backup quarterback with Jimmy Garoppolo suspended for the first two games.

This makes six quarterbacks in the first 19 picks but consider the bigger picture for the Rams. Matthew Stafford is 36 years old and Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t a long-term option. L.A. has a good base to its roster, and Penix’s game is well-suited for Sean McVay’s offense, thanks to his arm strength and accuracy from the pocket. He didn’t miss a game over two years at Washington, though Penix had knee and shoulder injuries at Indiana that need to be vetted. He’ll also be 24 when he enters the league.

But I just love the production and deep-ball placement; he threw 67 TD passes and only 19 picks over the past two seasons, and his 4,903 passing yards led the country in 2023. Aaron Donald’s recent retirement means defensive tackle could be an option, but I see great value in finding a long-term solution for when Stafford is no longer the guy.

Penix suffered four season-ending injuries, including tearing his ACL twice, while at the University of Indiana. He transferred to the University of Washington in 2022 and has absolutely torn it up in the past two seasons, reaching the national championship game in January and losing to Michigan, which was by far his worst game of the year.

Penix had an unbelievably good supporting cast, as receiver Rome Odunze is expected to be a top-10 pick and receiver Jay’Lynn Polk could go in the second round, while tackle Troy Fautanu could go in the top-20. Those are just three names, but other teammates will be in the NFL. He also saw his head coach replace Nick Saban at Alabama and his offensive coordinator is now calling plays for the Seahawks.

What would benefit Penix in L.A. is the ability to sit for a year and learn from some of the best in the league, like Stafford and Sean McVay, without risking injury as a rookie. This would of course be a long-term move, something that may not sit well with fans who look at the defense and realize that there are few franchise players on that side of the ball.

But Les Snead has played so loose and fast with first round picks that we can’t put it past him to use this one on a move for the future instead of the present. Penix is a good prospect, the Rams could be a great situation for him, but I’m not sure this connection will work unless he’s the best player on Snead’s board. Is that really the case?