In the fourth quarter against Syracuse, Malik Willis faked a handoff and waited for Demario Douglas to create separation on a double move.
Willis, Liberty’s quarterback who has the fifth-best odds to be picked first overall in the NFL Draft, dropped a pass from about 35 yards away right into Douglas’ hands and between two defensive backs. The ensuing touchdown tied the game, and Willis went on to power his team to its first win over an ACC opponent.
Willis’ highlight reel is dazzling. But there’s plenty to be concerned about if a team is choosing him to be its quarterback of the future.
Malik Willis Draft Odds
Willis is tied for the sixth-best NFL Draft odds to be selected first overall at +4000.
|Name||Position||Team||1st Pick Odds (4/28)|
|Ikem Ekwonu||OL||NC State||+400|
|Charles Cross||OL||Mississippi State||+10000|
|Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner||CB||Cincinnati||+10000|
|Derek Stingley Jr.||CB||LSU||+15000|
|Kyle Hamilton||S||Notre Dame||+15000|
|Matt Corral||QB||Ole Miss||+15000|
|Sam Howell||QB||North Carolina||+20000|
|Garrett Wilson||WR||Ohio State||+20000|
|DeMarvin Leal||DT||Texas A&M||+30000|
|Chris Olave||WR||Ohio State||+50000|
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the first pick and need help essentially everywhere except quarterback after taking Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall a year ago.
SMOOTH GAS from Malik Willis pic.twitter.com/AxUfKNOMcv
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM) March 4, 2022
Malik Willis Pick Prediction
No quarterback will likely go in the top five. This class of passers isn’t as strong as years past, and the first teams set to pick don’t badly need another signal-caller.
However, picks Nos. 6-11 picks are interesting. Do the Panthers draft a quarterback or stick with Sam Darnold? Do the Falcons aim to find Matt Ryan’s heir apparent at No. 8? Do the Broncos use the ninth pick to trade for a quarterback like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers?
A possible scenario is Willis doesn’t go in that range. The Steelers trading for the 10th pick, therefore leapfrogging quarterback-needy Washington at 11, to pick up Willis isn’t out of the question. Willis is also polarizing as a talent, so he may even fall to the Steelers at No. 20.
Willis’ mobility and live arm would blend in well with Pittsburgh’s plethora of offensive weapons. That, combined with good coaching, could mean Willis doesn’t need much time before he can start games.
Malik Willis’ Stats
Willis transferred to Liberty from Auburn midway through his collegiate career. In 2017 and 2018, he played 15 games but finished his time there just 11-for-14 passing with 69 yards and a touchdown. He also totaled 309 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
After redshirting in 2019, he completed 64.2% of his throws for 2,260 yards, 20 touchdowns (which ranked 16th in the FBS), and six interceptions in 2020.
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2022
That season, he was the top rushing QB in the country with 944 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, which tied for seventh nationally among all players. He was eighth in the country with the 204 points he was responsible for.
After going 19 of 29 through the air for 220 yards and totaling 137 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, he was named the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl MVP. He helped the Flames earn their first win over a nationally-ranked FBS team in No. 9 Coastal Carolina.
His final year of college in 2021, Willis completed 61.1% of his passes for 2,857 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also recorded 878 rushing yards and 13 TDs on 197 carries.
In his final collegiate game, he was the LendingTree Bowl MVP as Liberty won 56-20. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns while adding two more scores on the ground with 58 rushing yards on eight attempts.
MALIK WILLIS IS SLINGING IT🚀
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) March 4, 2022
Malik Willis’ Draft Profile
Willis’ mobility and arm strength make him an appealing prospect.
He has incredible accuracy on deep throws, even when he’s on the move. He also keeps his balance and gets passes off if he’s hit. His mobility also benefits him greatly in the red zone.
In the third quarter against Middle Tennessee, Liberty lined up for a two-point conversion. Willis ran right on a designed rollout but was under pressure quickly.
Willis spun away from defensive end Richard Kinley, who went down to the ground but still managed to pull the QB’s jersey. This propelled him back as far as the 27. But with his eyes still downfield, Willis outran another defender and advanced upfield along the right sideline. Willis located Brody Brumm running across the end zone and hit him.
Willis is also unafraid to take deep shots. He throws especially well to receivers who are running vertically. Though he isn’t 100% accurate, he shows a fair amount of touch on throws downfield. Liberty ran fairly simple route concepts, but they worked nonetheless.
For example, in that Middle Tennessee game, Willis, off-balance and under pressure, threw from near his own 13 and completed a pass to the opposite 32 just beyond a pair of defenders.
hello here's Malik Willis making the best throw I've seen from any QB prospect in this year's class pic.twitter.com/8LZlOECFaQ
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) March 2, 2022
Willis is decisive when he chooses to take off and run. He also clearly understands pursuit angles, making defenses have to cover the whole field.
But Willis also often doesn’t wait for a second option. If his first receiver is covered, he takes off. And even then, Willis takes an alarming amount of risks and makes throws that may be easily picked off.
Willis often worked out of the shotgun, which the Steelers did the sixth-most times in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. He also utilized play fakes often, another rising professional trend. So even despite the risks, he would be a fit in Pittsburgh.