2022 NFL Draft Player Preview: Malik Willis

  • Malik Willis, 6-1/215

  • Quarterback

  • Liberty

  • Malik Willis 2021 Preview
    By Charlie Campbell

    Career Recap: Willis started out his career at Auburn before transferring to Liberty. He broke out with the Flames in 2020, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,260 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 14 touchdowns ans 944 yards on the ground.

    2021 Season Outlook: Liberty's schedule should lend itself to another big season for Willis. The most important games on his 2021 slate could be Sept. 24 versus Syracuse and Nov. 6 against Ole Miss. Those teams could field tougher defenses and challenge him with better talent.

    Skill-Set Summary: The recent trend in the NFL is a preference away from pocket passers to dual-threat quarterbacks who can hurt defenses with their arm and their legs. Willis gave definitive proof that he falls into that category with his superb 2020 season for Liberty.

    As a passer, Willis has some impressive arm talent. He can really spin the ball and has no problems pushing it vertically downfield. The football jumps out of his hand, and he has the arm strength to easily rifle passes with just a flick of the wrist. On top of arm strength, Willis shows a nice ability to loft in touch passes downfield. He can put air under the ball and drop it in. Some big-armed quarterbacks become so dependent on their arm strength that they throw flat passes, but Willis has avoided the trap, showing touch-pass ability to go along with being able to fire fastballs with serious velocity. Willis has a quick release and can make plays off script. He also displayed impressive deep-ball accuracy in 2020. His arm talent will have a lot of NFL evaluators and coaches very intrigued to work with him.

    Willis has some raw elements to his game as a passer and needs development. The biggest point of improvement is field vision. He has to get better at reading defenses, working through his progressions, and throwing the ball to the right receiver. Willis can have a tendency to stare down his primary read and predetermine where he is going with the ball. He has get better at working through reads and get fast at it for the NFL. At Liberty, Willis had a lot of receivers running wide open, and he will need to get comfortable throwing into tighter windows as a pro.

    Footwork is another point of improvement for Willis, who can throw flatfooted and sometimes seems too reliant on his arm. Improving his footwork fundamentals will make him more accurate for the NFL.

    To go along with his big arm, Willis is a true dual-threat quarterback thanks to his dangerous running. He has the quickness to dart upfield and good speed, for a signal-caller, to accelerate while being able to run away from some defenders. With his athletic scrambling ability and big arm, Willis is dangerous to ad lib and make big plays on roll outs. Making plays off script in backyard football is an en vogue trait, and Willis has shown a similar ability with Liberty. As a runner, Willis is tough and will lower his shoulder to plow through contact. He will to need to cut down in the pros, however, simply to avoid injury.

    The NFL is constantly on the lookout for potential franchise quarterbacks, and Willis has a special skill set that could cause plenty of teams to target him.

    2022 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2021 season, Willis looks like a potential first-round talent. He could rise high if he performs well during 2021 and in the leadup to the draft.



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