NFL Rumors: Malik Willis No. 1 QB on 2022 NFL Draft Board for at Least 1 Head Coach

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 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 NFL Network's Peter Schrager projected Liberty's Malik Willis to land with the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20 overall in his first-round mock for the 2022 NFL draft, but he noted the quarterback "could certainly go higher" in the first round.

"I know at least one NFL head coach who said he's his No. 1 QB on the board," Schrager wrote.

Willis has been in competition with Pitt's Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss' Matt Corral, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder and others to become the first signal-caller selected when the draft gets underway April 28.

The 22-year-old from Atlanta started his college career at Auburn before transferring to Liberty after two seasons for a shot at more playing time.

He posted impressive numbers in two years as the Flames' starter, albeit against lower-level competition than he would have faced in the SEC. He completed 62.4 percent of his throws for 5,107 yards with 47 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,835 yards and 27 scores.

Willis has the most playmaking upside of any quarterback in the class. The question is whether his size (6'0½'', 219 pounds) and lack of consistency as a passer, especially in terms of hitting receivers in stride at the intermediate and deep levels, will prevent him from becoming a superstar.

In March, he expressed confidence the latter issues can be worked out by improving his footwork.

"That's where some of the flaws in my game come from, maybe some inaccuracies," Willis told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. "It's just from footwork. It's not from just being inaccurate. They can just say I can't throw, whatever."

This year's draft class doesn't feature a sure thing at quarterback. All of the names mentioned above are capable of becoming solid NFL starters and, if everything goes well in their development, they could reach a Pro Bowl level.

Willis is the one with the potential to reach the highest peaks if his accuracy improves even a modest amount. Otherwise, everything from his arm strength to the ability to pick up key first downs with his legs is exactly what you want for the modern NFL.

PFF Draft @PFF_College

Quarterbacks with the most missed tackles forced since 2014<br><br>⚡️ Lamar Jackson: 140<br>⚡️ Malik Willis: 140 <a href="https://t.co/Ve4JkkNiKm">pic.twitter.com/Ve4JkkNiKm</a>

In turn, it wouldn't be a shock to see him come off the board far earlier than expected if a team is willing to make a big bet on that game-changing upside.

A year on the sideline operating behind Mitchell Trubisky while working on his footwork and learning NFL defensive schemes wouldn't be the worst thing for his development if he does slide all the way to the Steelers at No. 20, though.