Hugh Freeze: Eagles Talked to Me 'a Lot' About Malik Willis Before 2022 NFL Draft

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2022

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis throws during the school's pro football day for NFL scouts and coaches, Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Kendall Warner)
AP Photo/Kendall Warner

The Philadelphia Eagles have a young quarterback in Jalen Hurts, but that apparently hasn't stopped them from doing some homework on Liberty signal-caller Malik Willis ahead of the 2022 NFL draft.

During an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show (h/t Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP), Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze revealed he spoke with assistant special teams coordinator Joe Pannunzio and the Eagles about Willis.

"Philadelphia has called here recently," Freeze said. "I talked to them a lot last night. … I talked to Coach (Joe) Pannunzio last night. I think he is in their personnel. We go back from our days in the SEC together. He was definitely calling on behalf of them with some more conversation."

Philadelphia isn't the only team that contacted Freeze, who said he also talked to the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler listed the Panthers and Falcons as potential landing spots when he reported Tuesday that "it would be a major surprise if Malik falls out of the top 20."

Sam Darnold (Carolina), Marcus Mariota (Atlanta), Mitchell Trubisky (Pittsburgh) and Drew Lock (Seattle) are not exactly surefire franchise quarterbacks for the next decade, so it isn't particularly surprising those teams have been connected to one of the top quarterbacks in this draft class.

Where quarterbacks will go in this draft remains one of the biggest mysteries as April 28 approaches.

B/R's NFL Scouting Department projected the Liberty playmaker to go No. 2 overall to the Detroit Lions in its most recent mock draft and pointed to his "very good arm strength that can drive on intermediate throws" and ability to "attack all parts of the field with his arm" in a scouting report.

Willis' best attribute is likely his running ability as evidenced by his 878 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground in his last college season.

Philadelphia has the Nos. 15 and 18 picks in the first round, and Willis may very well be gone by those selections. Perhaps it was just trying to get a better sense of where the quarterback will go in the draft when talking to Freeze, which would, in turn, impact its strategy and big board.

As for Hurts, he is just 23 years old but consistency as a thrower has been an issue at times. He completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season and would likely still be the starter even if the Eagles did select Willis.