2022 NFL draft scouting report: Liberty QB Malik Willis



Liberty QB Malik Willis

6-foot 1/2219 pounds

Yahoo Sports’ 2022 NFL draft grade

6.26 — possible first-rounder; possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report

Unicorn playmaker with a rocket arm and tackle-breaking run ability, but he’s somewhat unrefined and will face ups and downs early on.

The skinny

A 3-star Rivals recruit as an “athlete” in the Class of 2017, Willis signed with Auburn and saw action in seven games, completing 6 of 7 passes (85.7%) for 45 yards with one TD, also running 16 times for 221 yards and another score. As a sophomore, he completed 5 of 7 passes for 24 yards and ran 12 times for 88 yards and one TD. After losing his bid to win the Tigers’ starting QB job in the spring of 2019, Willis transferred to Liberty and sat out that season. In 2020, he won the Flames’ QB job and led the team to a 9-1 record as a starter, completing 170 of 265 passes (64.2%) for 2,250 yards, 20 TDs and six INTs, rushing 141 times for 944 yard and 14 TDs. As a redshirt senior, Willis completed 207 of 339 passes (61.1%) for 2,857 yards, 27 TDs and 12 INTs, also rushing for 878 yards and 13 TDs on 197 carries and catching a 13-yard pass in 13 games. Willis attended the Senior Bowl.

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis runs through passing drills during Liberty Football Pro Day in Lynchburg, Va., on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Kendall Warner)

Upside

Explosive athlete with a power-RB type of build

Unusual combination of athletic traits — a true dual-threat QB

Able to withstand hits as a runner, as well as juke defenders and break tackles

Enough juice to turn the corner vs. NFL ends and some linebackers

Nuclear-grade arm talent — easily can air it out 60-plus yards or thread it on a line

Only Senior Bowl QB whose passes truly cut through heavy practice rain and wind

Able to throw from variety of arm angles and platforms

Ability to summon magic in his game — lots of “wow” plays on tape

Defenses must account for every blade of grass when he’s on the field

Pretty quick release throwing hot vs. blitz or on RPOs

Lack of height didn’t lead to many batted balls at line (seven in 615 career attempts)

Asked to carry the load on an undertalented team — go-to receiver was redshirt freshman

Played behind shoddy OL, and not all his sacks were on him

Some turnovers came when you don’t mind him taking the risk — played to win

Cut way back on fumbles — three in 2021, compared to 17 in 2020

Rarely was hemmed in as a runner last two seasons — averaged 8.4 ypc in career (taking out sacks)

Offers good sub-package possibilities while he’s preparing to start

Teammates gravitate toward his personality, leadership style

Eminently coachable and has made tangible strides last few years

Physically and mentally tough

Story continues

Downside

Well below preferred threshold for height

Didn’t run 40-yard dash or perform other combine testing drills

His body has taken a beating the past two seasons

Operated in offense with heavy predetermined reads, half-field reads

Takes way too many sacks — one on every nine dropbacks last season

Hangs onto the ball too long — average time in pocket last season was whopping 3.33 seconds

Must learn to climb the pocket, and not just default to being a runner

Pocket footwork can be sloppy and wild, even with improvements

Touch, accuracy and placement all need improvements

Too many passes thrown in harm’s way

Tends to stare down targets — NFL safeties will feast on this

Not effective dissecting the middle of the field

Turnovers tended to come in bunches

Racked up huge production vs. lower-level teams, fared less well vs. Power-5 competition

Will need time to percolate before he’s ready to start

Team that drafts him must be willing to embrace schoolyard play style

Best-suited destination

In a perfect world, Willis will land with a team that will not try to change Willis’ play style, even if he needs to improve elements of his game, and must incorporate a designed QB run game into that offense. The first part can be achieved by watching and learning before he’s ready to be unleashed. Physically speaking, Willis can handle the rigors of the NFL, but counting on him too early could lead to some wild variance in his play. That said, highly drafted quarterbacks rarely sit long, so finding that balance will be key. He has special traits but isn’t yet close to being a finished product.

Did you knowPlayer compExpected draft range

We think Willis ends up a top-10 pick.



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