Subterfuge is par for the course in the build to the NFL draft, and Liberty star Malik Willis might be an especially frequent target for intrigue.
NBC Sports' Peter King reported that "we’ll hear a lot more bad rumors about who loves Willis very soon." King went on to speculate that the Carolina Panthers, who have the No. 6 overall pick, could be targeting a quarterback in the first round and thus may set their sights on Willis.
During Liberty's pro day, the 6'1" signal-caller demonstrated why some are so high on what he can do at the next level. His arm strength immediately jumped out.
Malik Willis' arm strength is no joke. 😳 <a href="https://twitter.com/malikwillis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@malikwillis</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/LibertyFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LibertyFootball</a> Pro Day on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLNetwork</a> <a href="https://t.co/shHKM2loyW">pic.twitter.com/shHKM2loyW</a>
Last week, ESPN's Jordan Reid and Matt Miller both pegged Willis to the Detroit Lions at No. 2 overall, with Reid writing that fans should "expect this pairing to become more popular as we get closer to the draft."
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who attended the pro day, spoke highly of the Flames QB:
For the foreseeable future, Buffalo Bills star Josh Allen will be the poster boy for how a team can get the best out of a quarterback who lacks a stellar college resume but possesses all of the tools to succeed.
Allen didn't excel at Wyoming and had two nondescript seasons with the Bills before his 2020 breakout.
Willis only ranks 47th overall on Bleacher Report's big board, and B/R NFL Scout Nate Tice compared him to Tyrod Taylor. As good as Taylor has been—he reached a Pro Bowl in 2015—he's not exactly the kind of quarterback you're hoping to land in the top 10 of the draft.
But it's very easy for a head coach or general manager to talk himself into Willis having a difficult adjustment to the NFL before enjoying an Allen-like ascension. Of course, that mindset belies how Allen is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to QBs with his profile.
The boom-or-bust potential for Willis makes him ripe for draft strategems.
Teams that aren't interested might want to inflate his stock so an opposing front office winds up taking a big swing on a high pick that doesn't pan out. Those who have Willis on their radar, on the other hand, stand to gain from tempering his value.