7 NFL Draft prospects to watch — Washington Huskies edition

Rome Odunze, Troy Fautanu, and Michael Penix Jr. are fixtures in the 2024 NFL Draft discussion. As Washington sets out to win the national title on Monday, these seven players should be on your radar.
Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) warms up before
Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) warms up before / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season comes to an end on Monday night, but not before the Michigan Wolverines and Washington Huskies square off for the national title. Even non-college football fans should be excited for this matchup, as it boasts upwards of a dozen 2024 NFL Draft prospects.

Michael Penix Jr. — A Polarizing QB Prospect

The Huskies are led by Heisman runner-up and potential first-round pick, Michael Penix Jr. The lefty passer flexes absurd arm strength, regularly flicking the ball downfield with ease. He is tall, not afraid to step up in the pocket, and flashes elite ball placement more times than not.

A lengthy injury history, including two torn ACLs, muddies Penix’s NFL Draft projection. It also doesn’t help that he will be 24 years old as a rookie. Both factors will be crucial in the Washington star’s evaluation, but off sheer talent alone, Penix is a Day 1 draft pick — without question.

Rome Odunze Will Be A Superstar On Sundays

Elsewhere on the Husky offense, a wide receiver trio deserves its fair share of credit, too. The best of the bunch, Rome Odunze, ranks No. 6 overall on NFLMocks’ current Big Board. He is a big-bodied pass catcher who sports track-star speed and otherworldly body control downfield.

Odunze is a threat to jump over anybody on the field with an impressive vertical leap and vice-grip hands that rarely falter. His release package off the line of scrimmage is impossible to defend, resulting in several burnt defenders on the boundary. Lining up one-on-one vs. Odunze is a death wish.

Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk are exciting prospects in their own right. McMillan is a savvy route runner, possessing smooth hips and an expansive route tree. Polk is more of a big-play specialist, using his size and speed to terrorize his assignments in the secondary.

McMillan and Polk are both projected as Day 2 players at the 2024 NFL Draft, but the former receives a considerably higher grade than the latter on NFLMocks’ latest Big Board update. Either way, it’s an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver for Washington — and all three will find their way into an NFL offense next fall.

Troy Fautanu Is That Guy

Last but certainly not least is the bully-ball blocker, Troy Fautanu. The starting left tackle for the Huskies is a stalwart in the lineup. He possesses a stout build with a low center of gravity, allowing for excellent leverage when engaged with a defender.

Fautanu’s hands are amongst the strongest in the class, showing superior grip strength and the ability to manipulate his assignments in whichever direction he chooses. The former high school volleyball player is also a stellar athlete, using picturesque footwork and vision when blocking at the second level.

In the NFL, Fautanu grades out higher as a guard due to his length and overall size. Coupled with his power profile and deceptive agility, Fautanu has All-Pro potential early in his career and a direct path toward being the best pro on a roster full of future pros. He’s a quality target in Round 1.

The Washington Defense Has A Couple Of Intriguing NFL Draft Prospects

Flipping to the other side of the ball, Washington has two players that should go inside the top 100 selections. First up, Bralen Trice. The lanky pass rusher is a nuisance to opposing quarterbacks, using his unprecedented length to strong-arm offensive linemen back into the pocket.

Trice is more than a one-trick pony, too. He has a quick first step and a seemingly endless supply of pass-rushing moves in his arsenal. When Trice can get into his assignment’s chest pads, that is when he is at his best. The bull rush is difficult to defend, even with running backs and tight ends helping out.

The other name is not held to such a high regard — at least not yet. Former Oklahoma State standout Jabbar Muhammad transferred to the Pacific Northwest last offseason and has parlayed it into the best season of his career. The feisty cornerback is sticky in coverage and has arguably the best recovery ability in the class.

Muhammad shows the traits to stick with NFL-caliber wideouts on Sundays. His hips are nice and fluid, his ball skills are top-notch, and the confidence he brings to the table is infectious to the entire defense. Simply put, Muhammad is a top 100 grade any day of the week.

Below are the following 2024 NFL Draft grades for each player as of this writing:
•WR Rome Odunze (First Round)
•OL Troy Fautanu (First Round)
•EDGE Bralen Trice (First Round)
•QB Michael Penix Jr. (Fringe First Round)
•WR Jalen McMillan (Fringe Second Round)
•CB Jabbar Muhammad (Third Round)
•WR Ja’Lynn Polk (Third Round)

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