NFL Draft Rumors: Malik Willis Believes He Won't Fall Past Steelers' No. 20 Pick

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 26, 2022

MOBILE, ALABAMA - DECEMBER 18: Malik Willis #7 of the Liberty Flames throws the the ball 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

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis reportedly doesn't believe he'll fall any further than the Pittsburgh Steelers at the No. 20 pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft Thursday.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported the news Tuesday on SportsCenter:

"The Steelers, here is a team that a lot of executives are looking at, at No. 20 overall, as some potential movement in the quarterback chase. They say, look, 'They've been on the pro day circuit, they've done a ton of homework on all of these quarterbacks looking for a Ben Roethlisberger replacement long term.' Of course, they have Mitchell Trubisky, but Malik Willis I'm told believes that No. 20, that Steelers spot, is his floor. That he wouldn't fall past that based on what he knows of this draft process. That's how he feels everything has gone, and so that could be a potential marriage if they want to stash a player like Willis for a year, let him develop behind the scenes."

No position group faces more uncertainty heading into the draft than the quarterbacks, which is pretty much the opposite of most years.

Willis could come off the board as high as No. 2 to the Detroit Lions, though they've been more frequently linked to the class' top defensive prospects, or he could slide to the second round. That's a massive range of potential outcomes.

The Steelers at No. 20 is likely the floor if Pitt's Kenny Pickett is off the board. If Pickett, who played college football in the city and is the more NFL-ready option, is still available, that's where things get a bit more uncertain for the Liberty standout.

In that scenario, Pittsburgh could opt for Pickett, who would have a chance to beat out free-agent signing Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job as a rookie following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. Willis would then be looking at a drop at least until the Lions at No. 32.

A modest slide wouldn't be the worst thing for Willis' long-term outlook, though.

The 22-year-old Georgia native possesses the most upside of any QB in the class, but his skill set is rawer than the other top signal-callers, and he's also facing a steeper jump in competition from the low FBS level to the NFL.

Landing in a situation where he won't be viewed as the immediate savior and can potentially spend a year on the sideline could help for the long haul.

Willis explained at the NFL Scouting Combine in March what sets him apart from the rest of this year's rookie quarterbacks.

"In my opinion, I just think it's my willingness to learn," he told reporters. "My willingness to try to be great and the physical tools I've been blessed with. And my work ethic."

A year on the sideline to work on his accuracy, which is the biggest concern after completing a modest 61.1 percent of his throws last season, along with getting a chance to see how NFL defenses scheme could put him in position to shine in 2023.

Pittsburgh is one place where that could happen, but there are numerous others, especially if he's still on the board in the latter stages of Round 1 or early in Round 2.

All told, Willis' promising outlook won't change, regardless of what number he comes off the board.