Malik Willis Drafted by Titans: Tennessee's Updated Depth Chart After Round 3

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 30, 2022

MOBILE, ALABAMA - DECEMBER 18: Malik Willis #7 of the Liberty Flames reacts during the LendingTree Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium on December 18, 2021 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans hope they found their quarterback of the future with the selection of Liberty's Malik Willis with the 86th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft on Friday in Las Vegas.

Although Willis was firmly on the draft radar throughout his final season with the Flames, his stock started to soar thanks to his strong performance during Senior Bowl week.

The 22-year-old Atlanta native, who started his college career at Auburn before transferring to Liberty in 2019 for a shot at more consistent playing time, features a combination of arm talent and playmaking ability with his legs that perfectly fits the modern NFL play style.

He's still a work in progress, but the upside is obvious. Here's a glimpse at how the Titans' depth chart shapes up following his arrival:

QB: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Kevin Hogan

Willis played 23 games across two seasons with the Flames following the transfer. He completed 62.4 percent of his throws for 5,107 yards (222 per game) with 47 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He added 1,822 rushing yards and 27 scores on the ground.

The key question is how long it will take for him to translate his jaw-dropping skill set into high-level production against NFL defenses.

Bleacher Report's Nate Tice described him as "more of a toolsy player than a viable starting NFL quarterback at this point in time" but noted there are a lot of things to like in his predraft scouting report:

"Willis is an athletic and tough quarterback who can create plays out of structure with his legs and arm. He has average height but a good build and has no qualms about taking repeated hits throughout a game. He's a major weapon on designed quarterback runs.

"When Willis is in rhythm, his arm strength pops off the screen. He throws a catchable deep ball and can drive intermediate throws into tight spaces. When he's able to anticipate throws—usually on the outside or on RPOs—he flashes good accuracy. Willis is able to easily break a defense's contain with his agility and burst, and he has the ability to flip his hips and change arm angles when throwing on the move while also remaining accurate."

Those traits are basically a shot-for-shot breakdown of what it takes to become an ideal modern QB, as illustrated by the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen and Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert, among others.

Bleacher Report's Scouting Department listed Willis as the No. 2 quarterback in the class behind Desmond Ridder, ranked 48th overall.

Willis must become better at reading defenses and using all sectors of the field in the passing game, but his long-term potential makes him an intriguing addition.

Regardless of what happens during his rookie year in Tennessee—he'll likely begin his pro career as a backup—this is a pick based on the long-term outlook. If he develops quickly and ends up finding stardom quicker than expected, that's merely a bonus.

The Titans are placing a bet that the highlight-reel moments he produced throughout college will eventually become his norm in the NFL, too. It's not a guarantee that will happen, but it's hard to argue against taking a chance on his type of talent.