NFL Rumors: Malik Willis Unlikely to Fall out of Top 20; Panthers, Falcons Linked

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis stands in between passing drills during Liberty Football Pro Day in Lynchburg, Va., on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Kendall Warner)
AP Photo/Kendall Warner

Quarterback Malik Willis reportedly likely won't have to wait long to hear his name called during the 2022 NFL draft.

"I talked to somebody close to Malik Willis in this process who said it would be a major surprise if Malik falls out of the top 20," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said during an appearance on SportsCenter.

Fowler noted teams see Willis as the quarterback with the most upside in this draft and pointed to the Carolina Panthers at No. 6 and the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 as potential landing spots in that top 20.

Willis won't even have to wait that long if the latest mock draft from B/R's NFL Scouting Department that projected him as the No. 2 overall pick to the Detroit Lions comes to fruition.

Whichever team takes him will likely view it far more as a move for the future than one for the 2022 campaign. While the upside stands out, he may need time to adjust to the NFL game and a higher level of competition after playing collegiately for Liberty.

He completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,857 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 878 yards and 13 scores on the ground in 2021.

It is that running ability that immediately stands out, and Fowler suggested he may be best used in Wildcat packages as a rookie until he adjusts to the NFL level. That athleticism should also help him evade pressure inside the pocket and keep plays alive, which would give his receivers more time to get open. 

Carolina makes sense as a potential destination considering incumbent Sam Darnold is anything but a proven commodity and is only under contract through this season. Willis could be Darnold's backup for a season while coming in for certain packages and then take over for the 2023 campaign.

Atlanta is in a similar situation after it traded away franchise legend Matt Ryan.

While Marcus Mariota arguably brings a higher ceiling than Darnold, he has a potential out on his contract for 2023 and hasn't started a game since 2019 when he was a member of the Tennessee Titans.

Willis could back him up for a year or two and then assume the starting role for the Falcons.