Malik Willis 2022 NFL Draft Profile


In an underwhelming quarterback class in which the QB1 title is very much an open competition, Liberty’s Malik Willis has been gaining a lot of buzz. He flashed his top-end athletic traits at the Senior Bowl and went on to dazzle with his arm strength at the NFL Combine this past weekend. Is the 6’1″ 225 lb. passer and former Auburn Tiger the real deal or should be NFL teams be wary? Let’s dive into my analysis of his tape to see why I think the answer is a little bit of both.

Strengths: Willis’s arm talent is elite. He has a very quick release and great arm strength, getting a lot of zip on drive throws and being capable of launching the ball downfield. Willis is raw as a passer but has many encouraging flashes. At times, he throws the deep ball accurately with great timing, touch, and anticipation, which shows his upside as a passer. Willis regularly places contested catches alongside the sideline where only his receiver can get it. His accuracy is solid in the short and intermediate ranges. He leads receivers well on screen passes. Against pressure, Willis flashes the ability to stay calm, keep his eyes downfield, and deliver an accurate pass through a hit, and would likely have displayed this ability more consistently if his protection was better. He rarely bails clean pockets. Willis’s escapability is top-notch, as he is very twitchy and elusive. He is skilled at extending the play with either his arm or his legs. He throws accurately and with good anticipation on the run, even across his body at times, and has good vision of the field to find the open man when he is scrambling. Willis is an elite runner, showing top-end burst, speed, and shiftiness. He can so easily turn what would be losses for other quarterbacks into 8-10 yard gains, and his legs allow him to pick up many long third-down conversions. Willis is a weapon on designed quarterback runs, and this added element is quite useful at the goal line. Moreover, Willis’s good health in college suggests that he is durable even with his high rushing volume. Playing on an offense where he was the only future NFL player, Willis truly elevated his team. He showed to be a good teammate and leader as well, as evidenced by his decision to play in the team’s bowl game despite reaping minimal personal benefit from doing so. Crucially, Willis noticeably improved from 2020 to 2021 as a passer, looking more natural and showing an uptick in overall accuracy. Willis has reportedly interviewed very well with NFL teams, showing high football intelligence, drive, and leadership. 

Weaknesses: Willis still has a lot of work to do as a passer, and is not capable of being an NFL starter based on his current level. Willis was under constant duress but still held onto the ball way too long, trying to use his escapability to his advantage in even the most unlikely situations, taking many useless sacks. He will need to learn when to use his athletic gifts to attempt to escape pressure and when to simply throw the ball away to live to see another down. This tendency exposes him to more hits than necessary as well. Willis struggles to read a defense, and this will be even more difficult in the NFL against more complex defenses. He often fails to see the lurking safety. His deep accuracy is still quite inconsistent, as the ball lands far off the mark at times. Combining his lack of awareness of the deep safety with his erratic accuracy deep, Willis currently poses too big of a risk of interceptions, as evidenced by his 12 picks thrown this year. He also puts himself at risk of fumbles when he fails to sense pressure or stubbornly tries to escape defenders’ grasp. Willis played in a very simplistic offense and what he was asked to do bears very little resemblance to what he will be tasked with as an NFL quarterback. There was a concerning lack of drive throws into tight windows across the middle of the field in Liberty’s play calling. Willis’s level of competition was very low, and even the Power Five schools he did face had much weaker defenses than what he will face in the NFL.

Bottom Line: Quite honestly, Willis is almost impossible to project, and the situation he lands in will likely be the determining factor of his NFL success. He has all the upside in the world, as he possesses all the physical tools and flashes some truly beautiful throws. However, he is a ways away from realizing this potential, given that he needs to learn to hold onto the ball less long, read a defense more effectively, and throw with more consistent accuracy in the deep portion of the field. There will be a significant jump in the level of competition in the NFL, but it is also important to consider that Willis will greatly benefit from a much-improved supporting cast. His porous offensive line really prevented Willis from improving as much as he needs to as a pocket passer. Willis did still show improvement from 2020 to 2021, which is encouraging. Willis is quite the gamble, but if a team gives him enough time to learn from the sidelines and proper coaching, he can certainly become a top NFL quarterback. 


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