Malik Willis: The Next NFL Project

Malik Willis: The Next NFL Project

NFL

Malik Willis: The Next NFL Project

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AP Photo/Butch Dill

Many articles and stories have been published about Malik Willis since his rise to college football stardom in 2020. After a dominant first year under center for the Liberty Flames, Willis was instantly grouped as a potential first-round draft pick and future NFL star. 

But 2021 saw a dip in production as Liberty struggled to put the necessary talent around him to succeed. But after what the world saw in Chiefs vs Bills, it’s worth pondering if Willis is worth the high-risk, high-reward situation. 

For as long as the NFL has existed, a star quarterback was mostly necessary for a Super Bowl run. But as time has gone on, what type of star quarterback has evolved. 

Most people believed that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady’s style of play was king. Standing in the pocket with the ability to diagnose coverages faster than anyone thought possible. And for a while, that style reigned supreme. 

But Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes proved Sunday night that the tide has changed. Now, having a big arm, with the ability to make off-script plays, scramble out of the pocket, and put pressure on defenses with their legs has taken the throne. 

And what does Willis thrive off of? His ability to make plays outside of the pocket. No other quarterback in this upcoming draft class can touch Willis’s uncanny ability to make something out of nothing. 

Not only does Willis have the dynamic running ability, but he has one of the strongest arms in this draft class. If he’s outside of the pocket, he’s going to find a window to fit the ball into. Watch the Virginia Tech tape from 2020 and you’ll be wowed by his off-script deep shots that helped the Flames upset the Hokies. 

Now is Willis a perfect prospect? Absolutely not, and most quarterbacks rarely are. But he’s young and can be molded by an offensive mind who’s willing to take the time to develop him. 

Look at Allen coming out of Wyoming. In his first year, Allen started only 11 games. He completed only 53% of his passes as he struggled to make the necessary reads. He tried to do too much, leading to 12 total interceptions, and many thought he was heading towards the “bust” label. But Sean McDermot and Brian Daboll believed and pushed Allen to be a top-five quarterback in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. 

Mahomes didn’t even see the field until Week 17 of his rookie season. He sat behind Alex Smith, a savvy veteran who taught him the ropes. Now he’s an NFL MVP, terrorizing defenses with 13 seconds on the clock on his way to four consecutive AFC championships. 

Teams must now begin to seriously critique who and what they have under center. Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Joe Burrow have truly reset the standard of a “franchise quarterback.” If your team does not have someone with uncanny abilities to elevate the team around them and make off-script plays, then your team is going to struggle to make noise in the postseason. 

Willis is the only quarterback in the 2022 Draft class with those intangibles. He may not be a true day-one starter, and it may take a few years to truly get him going. But once he does, teams better watch out. 

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