Not since the 2018 NFL Draft with Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen has there been a more intriguing boom-or-bust prospect than Liberty’s Malik Willis is in the 2022 NFL draft. In a draft with five signal callers who are considered first-or second-round picks, Willis is believed to have the most upside, but is a very raw prospect and could also be the biggest bust.
He’s joined by Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), and Sam Howell (UNC). Willis is the most intriguing of the group because of his style of play and the culture of the quarterback position in 2022.
.@NextGenStats breaks down the top 5 QB prospects based on Draft Score in the 2022 NFL Draft. 👀
— NFL (@NFL) April 21, 2022
NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks says Willis’ similarities to current dual-threat superstars makes him a coveted product.
“Willis has boom-or-bust potential with an intriguing set of tools that will have some coaches comparing him to Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson as a possible “one-man show” at the next level,” Brooks said.
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin (20th pick) has made no bones about his desire to draft Willis, and might be willing to trade up to get him on draft night.
Willis Isn’t Lamar Jackson, But He Should Be Thankful For Him
Willis has been compared to LJ8, which is high praise for a QB whoowasn’t even considered a first-rounder prior to this season. Jackson is the 2019 NFL MVP — and has dazzled during his four seasons in Baltimore, boasting a 38-12 record as a starter.
Jackson was considered a boom-or-bust prospect entering the league in 2018. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, who also finished second in the race in 2017, was the final pick of the first round. And while Baltimore’s legendary GM Ozzie Newsome knew he was talented, he admits that he had no idea “LJ8” would shake up the league so quickly. Jackson was considered “a project.” Some even suggested his athleticism would be better served at another position.
Jackson’s speed is a key factor in his dynamic ability to run, plus a big live arm that can make defenses look silly when he’s accurate and on his game. His toughness and knack for avoiding the big hit aren’t talked about enough either, as last year was the first season he missed games, the final six due to injury.
Malik Willis got an ARM pic.twitter.com/JsFWtgkTcN
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) March 4, 2022
Malik Willis Is A Poor Man’s Lamar Jackson?
Standing 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Willis possesses some of those same traits. He’s also fast and has the strongest arm of any of this year’s QB crop.
The issue Willis will have to overcome is the same one Jackson had to as well. Being a one-read quarterback. Jackson has shown some real development in that area as evidenced by his league-leading 36 touchdown passes in 2019, but his progress is up and down.
In 2018, Jackson was dissected by just about every draft analyst, from Bill Polian who called him too short at 6-3 to Matt Miller who had this to say:
“There are concerns among NFL scouts that Jackson is a one read, two read, run quarterback who won’t be able to make complex pro reads.”
The last QB in the green room on Draft night turned into an MVP for the @Ravens
Can’t say @Lj_era8 didn’t warn everyone. 🤷♂️
— NFL (@NFL) April 24, 2022
Willis Is Most Dynamic QB In The Draft
Willis has the ability to make a shoddy offensive line look better because of his ability to escape and extend plays, then make throws off-schedule. The same skills Lamar Jackson has applied to make a living. Although Jackson played in an offense position at Louisville with many pro concepts, most still didn’t believe it would transfer to the NFL. As for Willis, the offense he played in at Liberty does feature some pro concepts as far as reads go, but it’s all about his legs being the wildcard for him to make throws.
Oliver Hodgkinson of Pro Football Network raves about Willis.
“The Liberty QB is fast, owns an excellent short-area burst, and his change of direction is phenomenal. This allows him to be an entertaining, electric, and effective dual-threat quarterback. Willis is elusive both in and out of the pocket, shows stellar vision as a runner, and is brilliantly creative. He’s comfortably the most dangerous quarterback in terms of mobility in this 2022 NFL Draft class.”
Jackson is the blueprint and now Willis is hoping to follow in his footsteps. Everybody’s looking for a Lamar Jackson clone.