Why Undrafted?: Gerald Willis III

Why Undrafted?: Gerald Willis III, DT, Miami
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Five years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Three years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Entering the 2018 college football season, there was some buzz and excitement to watch the Miami defensive line. A large reason for that was defensive end Joe Jackson generating some hype during the 2017 season, and that hype looked warranted when Jackson had his way with Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey, a future top-10 pick. At the start of 2018, Jackson was quiet, but out of the gate, defensive tackle Gerald Willis made an impact for Miami. The quick tackle made plays behind the line of scrimmage and caused a lot of disruption for the Hurricanes.

For Willis, it was a long time coming after being a top recruit out of high school. The younger brother of safety Landon Collins, Willis started out his career at Florida before having off-the-field problems with the Gators. He transferred to Miami, but the off-the-field issues persisted for some time. In his senior year though, he seemed to put it all together, totaling 59 tackles with 18 tackles for a loss, four sacks and two passes batted. Many expected Willis to be a second-day pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, but he fell undrafted.

Team sources say there were a few reasons why Willis went undrafted, though the primary reason was the off-the-field issues. Nursing an injury and not working out for teams before the 2019 NFL Draft were other detriments that led to him going undrafted. Sources say that if Willis had put together a strong spring with good interviews and workouts, he would have been drafted.

After going undrafted, Willis signed with the Baltimore Ravens, and that was an okay landing spot. The Ravens have done well working with some players who are rough around the edges, so they should be a good organization for Willis to break into the NFL. Aside from the off-the-field situation, Baltimore is going to be a challenging team for Willis to make the roster. The Ravens will probably carry more edge rushers than interior linemen, and they have an established starting nose tackle in Brandon Williams. They also drafted Texas A&M nose tackle Daylon Mack, so Mack will have an edge on a roster spot over Willis because of the draft-status investment.

Willis’ best hope could be to impress the team well enough to earn a spot on the practice squad and in time work his way onto the Ravens’ active roster, or get signed off the practice squad by another team. Willis has the physical skill set to play in the NFL, but he needs to prove to be a hard-working professional.

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