Malik Willis Draft Profile
Malik Willis is one of the most interesting quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Every year there is a boom-or-bust quarterback prospect: Trey Lance, Justin Herbert, Drew Lock, Josh Allen, etc. In the 2022 NFL Draft, Willis is the boom-or-bust prospect. He has the potential to either be the best quarterback in the class or flame out and be a career backup. From what I have seen, Willis is an extremely humble guy and a true leader. He was able to bring Liberty, a school with just two players drafted to the NFL since 2010, into the spotlight. Despite playing with less talent and against lesser competition, Liberty was playing televised games because of what Willis brought to the table. He’s an electric quarterback destined for the spotlight. He’ll be a guy that draws a lot of viewers whenever he steps on the field because of how entertaining it is to watch him play. Willis is very raw and is not a complete quarterback by any means; I believe he will be the guy that shakes up the NFL Draft come April.
As I mentioned earlier, Willis is very raw and has a ton of natural talent. He is the most athletic quarterback in this year’s draft and has a cannon for an arm. When talking about quarterbacks that are very raw, they tend to not be very accurate. That isn’t the case with Willis, while his completion percentage isn’t as high as Matt Corral’s or Kenny Pickett’s; I found Willis to be an extremely accurate passer on typical rhythm throws. When Willis is tasked with doing a classic three and five step drop backs, he tends to drop throws perfectly in the bucket. With that being said, he is also a tremendous improviser that can make plays his legs and throws on the run. Similar to Tyler Huntley, Willis is capable of throwing without a strong base, from many different arm angles, and he can burn a defense with his legs. One trait that I love about Willis that can’t be coached is his dog mentality. He shows grit on the field whether it be him running over defenders or reversing field on different runs. He doesn’t give up on plays and he terrifies defensive coordinators when he leaves the pocket. Willis has this rare trait as a runner where defenders freeze up because they try to anticipate his next move; this leads to him blowing by tacklers like dust in the wind. If he ends up in the right system and with the right coach, Willis is capable of ending up as the best quarterback in the draft.
While there are a lot of traits about Willis that get you excited to watch him play, there are also a lot of things that make you want to close your eyes when watching him play. Willis has sloppy mechanics and throws entirely with his arm. He needs to utilize more torque with his body and his hips to have a quicker throwing motion. This caused Willis to be late on a ton of throws leading to missed opportunities or turnovers. Being able to throw from different arm angles is impressive and can be very helpful under pressure, but Willis’ mechanics are wildly inconsistent. What worries me most about Willis is his internal clock, or lack there of one. I’ve never seen a quarterback take so many sacks and hold on to the ball for so long. It is important to be able to extend plays, but Willis needs to learn to throw the ball way. In his final season with Liberty, Willis took over 50 sacks and was constantly being hit play after play. While a good chunk of those sacks can be attributed to poor offensive line play, a lot of the sacks were because Willis was holding on to the ball for way too long. Another thing that led to Willis’ turnovers was his lack of anticipation and impatient eyes. He has a tendency to look at a target for too long or too early on later developing plays. Willis will need a strict quarterback coach and a good offensive line to bloom in the NFL.
While Willis’ potential is exciting, his drop-off can be scary. I’m worried that if a defensive coordinator finds a way to take his legs out of the picture he won’t be able to generate any offense with his arm; that is why I have him graded as a day-two pick. With all of this being said, Willis’ stock has sky-rocketed since the season ended. He has cleaned up his mechanics and made his throwing motion a lot quicker. Quarterback coach Quincy Avery who trains Justin Fields, Deshaun Watson, Trey Lance, etc. has been a big part of that. At the Senior Bowl, Willis looked like the true alpha despite making his name at a smaller school. His leadership throughout that week bled through the week of the combine. On top of going viral for helping a homeless person, Willis has been making a name for himself based on the way he carries himself. He is a student of the game and a selfless leader— everything you want out of a quarterback. I can tell you right now, my grade on him has improved since the season ended. Last year, I failed to update my grade on a player after I watched his film for the first time; that is where I went wrong with Mac Jones. While I didn’t love Jones’ tape and had a harsh grade on him, I heard great things about him in the meeting rooms and in the private workouts. I’ve heard similar things with Huntley and I’m not going to make the same mistake. While originally I had him graded as a late second-round pick, I am now bumping him up to an early to mid-second-round pick. This is a combination of my own self-scouting and Willis’ self-improvement.
He’s made quite the leap this offseason and I think he is a much better player than he was at the end of this past season. Realistically, he will be a top ten pick— I could even see the Lions picking him second overall. It’s easy to see why Dan Campbell may have fallen in love with his mindset at the Senior Bowl, and I could also see Mike Tomlin falling in love with him at his pro-day. One place that I think would be a perfect spot for him is the Saints. Sean Payton holds the 18th pick in the draft and has had to run an offense built for a mobile quarterback with Taysom Hill. Willis will inherit one of the best offensive lines, offensive mind, and can sit behind Jameis Winston for a year or two. With Winston still undergoing recovery from a torn ACL, Willis will be able to get first-team reps in training camp. I couldn’t think of a better situation for Willis to live up to his potential than playing with the Saints. My intuition tells me that Willis will be a franchise quarterback; I just didn’t love his tape.
Arm Strength + Deep Ball 9/10
Pocket poise 6/8
Improvisational Skills 4.75/5
Decision Making + IQ 7.5/10
Against the Blitz 5.75/8
Throw on the Run 4/5
Final Rating: 80
Pro Comparison: Tyler Huntley QB Ravens
Team Fits: Saints, Texans, Lions
Draft Grade: Early - Mid Second Round Pick
Draft Projection: Top 10 Pick