Malik Willis, the Liberty Flames’ strong-armed dual-threat signal caller, has reportedly drawn interest from some quarterback-needy franchises ahead of this month’s NFL draft. The New York Giants, who didn’t pick up 2019 first-round pick Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option, recently met with Willis.
The Carolina Panthers are also in disarray at the game’s most important position and have shown a strong interest in Willis. In fact, both team’s coaches made the trek to Lynchburg, Virginia, on March 22 for Willis’ pro day where he wowed 60 NFL representatives.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin even had dinner with Willis the night before. Following that March encounter Willis was equally impressed with how down to earth Tomlin was.
“He was eating chicken wings. He’s like a normal dude,” Willis tweeted.
Rising Up The Draft Board
On Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted about Willis planning to meet with multiple teams in the next week:
“Liberty QB Malik Willis is scheduled to visit next week with, among others the Atlanta Falcons (No.8), and Carolina Panthers (No.6) per source. Willis already has met with the Steelers, Saints, Giants, Titans and others.”
The Atlanta Falcons just traded franchise stalwart Matt Ryan after 14 seasons. They then signed former 2015 No.2 overall pick Marcus Mariota as a stopgap solution, so finding their next signal caller is imperative. For now, at least there’s some familiarity at the position. Mariota and head coach Arthur Smith have a relationship from their days with the Tennessee Titans.
Willis Is An Intriguing Prospect With A Diverse Skill Set
Malik Willis DIME 🎯
QB1 in 2022 Draft? 🤔pic.twitter.com/ao8cTIuwaM
— PFF (@PFF) October 30, 2021
While Willis may not be as polished as Pittsburgh QB prospect Kenny Pickett when it comes to playing from the pocket or understanding defenses, he brings a unique ability to make the off-schedule play when things break down.
It’s similar to what we see weekly with Lamar Jackson of the Ravens. What we’ve also seen Deshaun Watson do prior to his legal troubles. Willis doesn’t project to All-Pro like these unique talents, but he does possess some of the same athletic traits.
Willis has elite speed and quickness. He can make all the throws from the pocket or on the move and you can call designed running plays for Willis. He has a stronger arm than both Jackson and Watson, which is saying something. The rookie will have some erratic passing moments, but the big play ability and “WOW” factor will outweigh that.
Like for instance this throw right here … you can’t teach that.
Unbelievable throw. Great celebration. @malikwillis is doing it all.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 22, 2022
Panthers, Falcons, Steelers Could Draft Willis: Giants Have Brian Daboll, Who Developed Josh Allen
As we get closer to this month’s NFL draft you see many mock drafts, some even have Willis going to the Lions at No. 2 overall. That’s unrealistic with Jarod Goff doing a serviceable job during a rebuild. Willis is a viable option to go to the QB-desperate Falcons, Panthers or Steelers. The Steelers and Panthers seem enamored with his skill set.
Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers don’t want to miss on finding another franchise talent in a division that now boasts the aforementioned Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Joe Burrow, who just led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl in his second season. Don’t know if Willis is that type of guy, but drafting QBs is always a crapshoot at best.
The Panthers are in dire need as well after cutting bait on Cam Newton for the second time. Teddy Bridgewater was serviceable but unimpressive. Sam “Punch Drunk And I’m Seeing Ghosts” Darnold was a slight upgrade but a stopgap at best. Head coach Matt Rhule is in a win-or-else scenario for his job, and it isn’t looking good under center in Charlotte.
Big Panthers contingent at Liberty for Malik Willis after going to Kenny Pickett pro day yesterday. Steelers’ Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are here.
— Joe Person (@josephperson) March 22, 2022
New York Giants
The Giants have the most proven QB developer in Brian Daboll, whom they hired as head coach. Daboll developed Josh Allen over the past four seasons and turned him into an MVP candidate. Daboll also played a huge role in the development of Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts during his one season as OC at Alabama in 2017.
Some intriguing fits for Willis, but one has to believe he’s headed to a franchise that is desperate for dynamic leadership behind center.