2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Malik Willisby Darius Walker February 14, 2022 7 comments
Malik Willis is arguably the most talented quarterback in this class. It’s been a steady rise to the top for Willis after entering college as a three-star quarterback. Willis started his career at Auburn and then transferred to Liberty University after his sophomore season. He was an instant star for Liberty. He sat out the 2019 season due to transfer rules but burst onto the scene in the 2020 season breaking the school’s single-season records for both touchdowns responsible for, with 34 and rushing yards with 944. Willis followed that up with 40 touchdowns this season. He put himself firmly on NFL scouts’ radar after the Senior Bowl where he was the star of the practices.
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Name: Malik Willis
Jersey: No. 7
Class: Redshirt Senior
Games Watched: Ole Miss (2021), Syracuse (2021), UAB (2021), Virginia Tech (2020), Coastal Carolina (2020)
Major Injury History: None
Arm Talent (15/15)
Willis has the most arm talent in this class without question. He puts great zip on the ball and can throw a 60-yard pass flat-footed. Fits the ball into tight windows with no problem. Has the arm strength to make throws downfield while on the run. Willis’s best trait is his ability to throw the deep ball. He was one of the best deep-ball passers in the country. According to PFF, Willis led all FBS quarterbacks in big-time throw rate at 11 percent. There were several instances where he overthrew players on vertical routes but that can be corrected with more reps. Willis makes throws outside the numbers look routine and has the arm talent to throw lasers while fading away from pressure.
Willis’ accuracy comes and goes. There are times when he makes throws that no other quarterback in this class can make but there are also times when he misses on routine, easy throws. On underneath routes, Willis misses are usually high. Most likely a result of improper mechanics or poor footwork. While being a great deep ball passer, he is not perfect in this area. There are times when he puts too much air on his vertical passes causing them to sail on his receiver. The simple throws are where Willis needs the most work. He has the arm talent to make every throw on the field but being consistently accurate is the key to every quarterback’s success in the NFL.
Decision Making (10/15)
The Liberty Flames did not have the most talented roster around Willis so he became accustomed to playing hero ball. He tries to do too much at times, whether it’s taking a sack trying to find an open receiver or trying to force the ball into a tight window. Willis believes in his ability to make plays with either his legs or his arm but sometimes that can lead to turnovers. Learning how to take what the defense gives him is going to be huge for Willis’ development as a quarterback. Throwing the ball away more and taking the underneath passes are two things Willis avoided doing in college. Liberty did not have a good offensive line but there were plenty of times where Willis took bad sacks trying to make a big play happen.
Willis played in a tempo-based offense that required him to do a lot of communicating at the line of scrimmage so there should be no questions regarding his ability to process information. While not consistent with it, he has shown that he can work through his progressions. In clean pockets, there were times when Willis read the entire field and worked his way through all of his reads. The problems arise when he begins to feel pressure in the pocket, he’ll drop his eyes while moving in the pocket, causing him to miss open receivers. Overall, this is not the strongest aspect of Willis’ game, but it is not an area that he struggles in.
Pocket Awareness (6/10)
Liberty’s offensive line was bad but Willis could have done a better job feeling the pressure. He is either bailing from the pocket too early or he’s staying in the pocket too long trying to make a play. One of his worst traits is running from a clean pocket. He needs to hang in the pocket more and trust what he sees. Feeling the pressure and understanding when to get rid of the ball is an area where he has a ton of room for improvement. Sacks are drive killers in the NFL and Willis took a lot of bad sacks. His athletic ability can get him out of bad situations, but you can’t rely on that solely when in the pocket. His internal clock needs to speed up.
Willis has the touch to layer the ball between defenders but it varies. Willis. He throws with great touch and anticipation at all three levels of the field. The ball placement is concerning at times, Willis’ touch will leave him at times and he will put the ball in a bad spot for the receiver. Getting his touch under control on vertical passes is something Willis needs to focus on. He can throw pinpoint 50 yard passes. His misses when throwing outside the numbers are due to him putting too much heat on his passes, something that is correctable with improved mechanics.
Out Of Structure (10/10)
Playing out of structure was a normal thing for Willis while at Liberty. He was put into several situations where he had to escape the pocket and elude defenders while still trying to find an open receiver. Plays well off-script and creates big plays when the pocket collapses. Uses his elusiveness in the pocket to keep plays alive and to get him out of bad situations. Being able to make plays out of structure is important more than ever in today’s NFL. It is a trait that most of the top quarterbacks in the league possess. Willis can throw a 50-yard pass when the play breaks down or he can get a big gain with his legs.
Willis is a dynamic runner and puts tremendous pressure on the defense. He can scramble for 50 yards when the play breakdowns and makes defenders miss in the open field almost every time he runs the ball. He rushed for 1822 yards and 27 touchdowns in his two-year stint at Liberty. His 94.5 rushing grade led all FBS quarterbacks. Willis is electrifying in the open field. He forced 90 missed tackles in 2021, only Kenneth Walker III forced more with 91. Willis is lethal with his legs whether it’s an RPO, or eluding defenders while scrambling in the pocket. He has 4.4 speed and will outrun defensive backs. His rushing ability paired with his arm talent is what makes him such a polarizing prospect in this class.
Willis does not have bad mechanics but again, it’s the consistency on a play-to-play basis. Consistency with his mechanics will solve all of Willis’ problems with accuracy and ball placement. His arm talent is not a problem at all but sometimes his footwork gets sloppy. Throws off his back foot too much, needs to step into more of his throws. There are times when his footwork completely breaks down and he makes throws with all arm, but that is not sustainable in the NFL. When under pressure, there are far too many instances where Willis’ mechanics break down and he makes a bad throw. It is mostly footwork where Willis needs to improve, he has a quick release with a good throwing motion.
Willis has skyrocketed up draft boards over the past few months. He would not be a first-round lock if this was not considered a weak quarterback class with no consensus No. 1. Willis has taken advantage of that and is now being mentioned as the top-ranked quarterback in this class. Whoever drafts Willis needs to be fully committed to both developing him as a player and building an offense around his strengths. Landing in a situation where he can sit his rookie year and learn would be ideal for Willis. His footwork, accuracy, decision-making, and touch all need work. Sitting for a season and seeing the game from the sideline is something Willis needs.
With a unique blend of size, power, speed, and arm talent, Willis has the highest ceiling of all the quarterbacks in this class. He possesses the raw talent to make throws only a handful of NFL quarterbacks can make. He is elusive in the open field similar to Lamar Jackson and he is a tough runner who is hard to bring down. Willis can throw a ball 50-60 yards downfield while on the move or standing flat-footed. He is a true boom-or-bust prospect and that is a cause for concern for NFL teams. Willis will need Josh Allen-like development to reach his full potential so it will come down to which team trusts their staff enough to take a risk on him.
Rookie Projections: Developmental/Backup Quarterback
Third Year Projections: Mid-Tier Starter
Final Grade: (80.5/100): Early Third Round
Player Comp: Lamar Jackson
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