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On Tuesday, the media gathered along with NFL front offices and coaches to watch the first 2022 Senior Bowl training session. Malik Willis stood out among others.
MOBILE – It took an afternoon to find out that Malik Willis will be the best quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Willis, 22, was one of six quarterbacks attending the first training day of the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. While Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Nevada’s Carson Strong and Cincinnati’s Desmond Knight all had glimpses of potential, no one looked like Willis.
The difference? Arm strength. Although each of the other aforementioned signal callers all displayed appropriate weapons, Willis threw one missile after the next, hitting a variety of different routes and depths. It was an impressive performance, albeit one that included a bit of inaccuracy and rocket balls that could have gotten more touch.
Does not matter. Anyone who understands the psyche of an NFL personnel man knows this: arm strength can not be learned, but a little finesse can be. There is limited upside with a quarterback unable to throw the entire route tree, and although Willis has plenty to prove, it is not among his concerns to be able to throw outside the numbers and deep downfield.
At Liberty, Willis’ competition played below standard. After two years on the bench at Auburn, he switched and started the final two seasons for the Flames. Here’s how these campaigns work:
2020: 64.2%… 2,250 passing yards… 20 TDs… 6 INTs… 944 rushing yards… 14 TDs (10 games)
2021: 61.1%… 2,857 passing yards… 27 TDs… 12 INTs… 878 rushing yards… 13 TDs (13 games)
Malik Willis is possibly the best quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft
Is Willis worthy of becoming a first-round pick? Hard to say. His skill set is ideally suited to today’s NFL with the ability to be mobile while having a rocket arm. Also at 6 feet and 220 pounds, size and durability come into the equation for a player who loves to run. Furthermore, however, the concerns about accuracy are legitimate and his statistics do not radiate, especially when you take into account the schedule you are facing.
And yet, one of Willis’ best fights in Liberty came in the 2020 Cure Bowl against the No. 9 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. The transfer rate for a quartet of touchdowns while throwing and passing 137 yards apiece. Liberty won in overtime, 37-34, and Willis was named the MVP of the match.
In a perfect world, Willis would get the Trey Lance treatment. A team selects him, gives the youngster a year to grow and then takes over the main job in 2023. Who fits this bill? The Atlanta Falcons, Washington Football Team, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns among others.
Ultimately, in a year where many NFL executives think the quarterback pool is pretty shallow, Willis’ raw talents might be able to vault him into the top half of the first round.