Nate's Draft Profiles: Malik Willis
We’ve talked about Matt Corral and Kenny Pickett thus far in this series. You can find links to our breakdown of them at the bottom of this article. However, since then, news broke that Kenny Pickett’s hand size is just 8.5 inches, less than any current NFL starting quarterback. I’m a big believer in the importance of hand size. Pickett takes a big hit in my opinion with the news.
Now, we’re onto one of the most exciting and confusing quarterback prospects in this draft. Malik Willis played his college ball at FCS Liberty.
It’s easy to say that he is the most physically and athletically gifted of this year’s prospects. He’s 6-foot-1, 215 pounds and has 9.5 inch hands.
Like I previously stated, it’s so hard to evaluate Willis. Liberty did not give him the opportunity to connect on easy completions often. On top of that, Willis often asked more of his receivers than they were able to provide. Willis is also often blamed for choosing to extend plays with his legs, forgoing far easier completion options.
I personally believe Willis has a chance to be a franchise type quarterback if given the opportunity. He’s a guy you would develop your offense around to get the most out of what he can offer. He’s still super raw as a quarterback and would ideally need time to develop. As many professionals have already stated, Willis is more of a “thrower” than a quarterback right now.
We’ve recently seen the likes of Josh Allen, playing at a smaller program (although not as small as Liberty) who was a freak athlete, had all the tools to succeed, just needed the right situation handed to him.
I’m not saying Willis is of Josh Allen’s status, because not many are, but I see a similar career projection.
Willis did run a tempo-oriented offense in college, which should bring a smile to several NFL coaches’ faces. He’ll likely require something similar at the next level if he is to succeed.
Additionally, we keep bringing up the fact that he played at Liberty. We’re easy to forget that he was once at Auburn; proving he has what it takes to be a SEC caliber signal caller.
As we’ve already touched on, the accuracy isn’t necessarily there. He often throws the majority of his balls “hot.” If he can learn to change the tempo of his passes depending on location, that would help with his accuracy tremendously right there.
Willis loves to look for the big play. We do love to see a quarterback willing to stretch the field and take the top off of opposing defenses. However, Willis often finds himself longing for the big play and ignoring what could be an easier completion underneath.
As for arm strength, there’s no challenging Willis there. He has the arm to make any and all throws on the field. A tweak of the mechanics, again, like we saw of Josh Allen over his NFL career thus far, will go a long way in Willis’ development.
He does have a good pocket presence and poise about him. Like I previously mentioned, he often looks for the big play and not the easy play. Therefore, he will look to extend plays with his legs. But again, Liberty oftentimes didn’t afford him the easier completions that he needed.
Obviously the ground game is a big part of Willis’ game. He was second in the entire FCS in rushing touchdowns with 14. Designed quarterback runs will be a big part of any offense that wants to get the most out of Willis.
During the 2021 season, Willis threw for 61-percent and just 12 interceptions to his 27 passing touchdowns. These are pretty good numbers for a guy always looking to push the field and tempo alike.
In all, Willis has the highest ceiling of any prospect in this draft.
NFL Comparison: Jalen Hurts with a better arm
I know I’ve used Jalen Hurts as a comparison for Matt Corral but Willis emulates his game well. A quarterback who can make all the plays he needs with his legs, but also has the pocket presence and poise to stand tough with defenses coming at him.
Willis has a much better arm than Hurts though. Hurts has him on accuracy, but Willis has him on strength by a large margin.
Potential Landing Spots: Carolina Panthers or Washington Commanders
I love the possibility of Willis going to Carolina. Although I’d like to see a chance in coaching there, I think it’s a perfect opportunity.
He won’t be asked to start right away as the team accepted Sam Darnold’s fifth year option. Darnold will be the starter there. The team could even bring Cam Newton back as a bit of a mentor to Willis.
As for Washington, Ron Rivera is the coach. He was the one who got the most out of another run-heavy quarterback in former MVP Cam Newton.
The Commanders are definitely looking for their new franchise quarterback to go with their rebranding. I would love for Willis to be under Rivera, I just hope they can get a veteran presence to help him develop.