This year's NFL draft notably does not have a front-runner for the top quarterback in the class. Longtime ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. threw out an interesting name when discussing who might emerge as the most coveted signal-caller in the next few months.
"The mock draft is about what we're hearing, not what we think, and that's why I say, when you look at Malik Willis, I think by the time we get to late-April, he may be the first quarterback taken," Kiper said.
Willis spent the last two years as the starting quarterback for Liberty and was known for his dual-threat ability. In 2021, he threw for 2,857 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 878 rushing yards and 13 scores.
Kiper noted that if Willis has an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl on Feb. 5 in Mobile, Alabama, it could propel him into the top 10.
"He's got that thick upper body, he's a powerful kid, he's fast, he surprises people with that deceptive speed and that deceptive strength," Kiper said. "If he lights it up in Mobile, he's gonna really be a guy that's gonna maybe end up in that top 10."
As for where Willis might land, Kiper speculated that the Atlanta Falcons might be ready to pick up the successor to longtime quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ryan has spent his entire 14-year career in Atlanta and threw for 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. It was Ryan's first time throwing for under 4,000 yards since his third year in the league, and it was his lowest touchdown total since 2017. Ryan has thrown double-digit interceptions in each of the past three seasons.
"Maybe Atlanta. ... They passed on quarterbacks last year, the heir-apparent to Ryan. Do they pass on the heir-apparent this year? If Willis is really strong in this draft process over the next 94 days leading up to the draft, I think Malik Willis could end up an Atlanta Falcon at pick No. 8," Kiper said.