Malik Willis - QB - Liberty Flames
Welcome to the rookie profile for Malik Willis. Willis is an electric playmaker with a huge ceiling in this year’s draft. He’s a dynamic runner who executes well on designed run plays and can use his legs to make big plays out of nothing. Willis is by far the most physically gifted of this year’s Quarterback class, but this season his performances took a step back from a ball security perspective. Willis wasn’t helped by his surrounding cast at Liberty and had to make a lot of difficult plays throughout the season. Willis’ legs however quite often got Liberty out of difficult situations. In the NFL I see Willis as a long-term future franchise player due to his dynamic physical attributes. He would however need an offense tailored to his strengths. With patience he can become a future Pro Bowl player, however would very much depend on his landing spot.
Height: 6′ 0.5″
Weight: 219 lbs
40-yard dash: DNP
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: DNP
Willis got off to a tricky start with his college career as many colleges viewed him more as a receiver as opposed to a Quarterback. Willis had initially accepted an offer from Virginia Tech as a receiver before accepting a late offer from Auburn as a Quarterback, but this didn’t work out as planned so he quickly transferred to Liberty.
After winning the number 1 job in 2020 he has never looked back. In his 2020 season, Willis produced 2,250 passing yards with 20TDs whilst throwing 6 interceptions. These numbers admittedly don’t set the world alight, what it fails to show is the true story as Willis averaged 8.5yds per attempt. He also contributed with his legs, adding 14 rushing touchdowns whilst almost hitting 1000 rush yards – leading Liberty to a 10-1 season.
2021 has seen Willis continue with his dual-threat identity in a season where he has put up 2,857 passing yards whilst rushing for 878 yards and adding a combined 40TDs on the year. He was also selected for the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl, the last chance to audition to put his name well and truly on the radar for this year’s QB draft class.
Willis is an elite athlete with a lot of power and is a patient runner with good vision when it comes to looking down the field. He is a confident passer of the ball with much-improved accuracy, showing better ball placement this year than he has done in previous years. He has excellent arm strength and can spread the ball anywhere on the field. He will step into the pocket while looking for plays downfield with the ability to reset his feet and deliver those ‘Plan B’ plays. A dual-threat quarterback with elite footwork and mobility and an instinctive runner with very good toughness to run through defenders (quite often using a stiff arm). Willis is also a very patient player and will not scramble more than required. It’s also important to note that Willis put up good numbers behind a dismal O-line and I think with more time to throw we will see him move to the next level in his development.
Willis will have to clean up certain parts of his game, most notably his decision-making and accuracy. All too often we see Willis trying to make plays for his highlight reel and will often try and force the ball into windows that aren’t there. Quite often Willis will put too much velocity onto the ball making it difficult to give his receivers a chance, like what we’ve seen of Trey Lance. Willis all too often will put too much air onto his plays and will need to show a lower trajectory on his deep ball to avoid turnovers in the NFL. It’s also worth noting that whilst Willis is a dynamite playmaker, he can be a ‘roller coaster’ from week to week, totaling 19 turnovers alongside 36 ridiculous big-time throws.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 1
Malik Willis will get selected in the first round of the draft and probably higher than we all expect. I have Willis as my third QB to go off the board (not too far behind Kenny Pickett) and with this in mind I would predict that we’ll see either the Denver Broncos or New Orleans Saints selecting Willis. The Broncos are still looking for that franchise Quarterback that they haven’t had since Peyton Manning’s retirement back in March 2016, albeit Teddy Bridgewater arguably putting up the best effort since the retirement of Manning. The Saints are another franchise in rebuild mode since the retirement of Drew Brees and after missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2016, they will be looking for their future face of the franchise. Willis has all the credentials for a Sean Payton offense. Willis has the ability to make all the big arm plays that Jameis Winston can make and also the running plays we’ve seen from Taysom Hill. The Saints may be required to trade up for Willis as his draft stock will gain momentum as we get closer to the draft.
Post Draft Analysis
Tennessee Titans- Round 3, Pick 22
Just like that, the former Liberty Flames QB’s pre-draft hype went up in smoke as he landed with the Titans. It’s highly unlikely that he’s going to dislodge Ryan Tannehill as their starting quarterback.
Whilst Willis is a player to avoid in redraft leagues he’s certainly a player worth targeting in dynasty leagues. This year is a season where he can learn from the experience of Ryan Tannehill and he could land that starting spot as soon as next year, if not sooner should the Titans underwhelm. Ryan Tannehill will turn 35 at the start of the 2023 season and the Titans can save just shy of $18 million if they were to cut him.