Updated: Jul 1, 2022
With the 86th pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Titans selected Quarterback Malik Willis out of Liberty.
In the short term, Willis will slot in as the team's backup Quarterback and in the long term, he has the potential to become one of the Titan's greatest Quarterbacks ever.
Despite his allegiance to Ryan Tannehill, GM Jon Robinson opted to draft a Quarterback. Robinson called Willis "the best player on the board" and praised his athleticism and strong arm.
Heading into the draft, Willis was a consensus first round pick and the best Quarterback in the draft in the eyes of almost all prominent analysts.
The move came as a surprise to me because as much as I loved Willis going into the draft, I never expected him to fall as far as he did nor did I think Robinson would take a chance on such a high risk, high reward Quarterback. Such a talent so late in the draft was simply too tempting to pass up on.
Willis' potential is the highest of any Quarterback in the draft.
A late bloomer in both high school and college, Willis did not start on the varsity football team until his junior year of high school. He did not take a snap at Quarterback until halfway through his Junior season in High School and for much of his football career, played running back and receiver.
He had little film and garnered little attention from colleges until he transferred schools ahead of his senior season to get some much-needed exposure.
Heading into his senior year in High School, he was committed to Virginia Tech not as a Quarterback but as more of an "athlete."
After his new coach began to see his vast potential under center, he received more offers but still, his only offer to play Quarterback came from Auburn.
He decommited from Virginia Tech and decided to go with Auburn but totaled just 309 passing yards and 2 touchdowns in his career with the Tigers.
Willis played two seasons and decided to transfer after he fell on the QB depth chart of then head coach, Gus Malzahn.
After transferring to the FBS, Willis was a two year starter for Liberty and produced some impressive numbers.
In 23 games with Liberty, he threw for 5,107 yards (222/game average), 47 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Notably, he rushed for 1822 yards and 27 touchdowns on 338 carries (5.4/attempt)
On the ground, Willis was electric. Among all players in college football with 50+ rushing attempts, he ranked 2nd in the country in yards after contact per attempt.
Incredibly, he ranked 1st in the country in forced missed tackles with 90, edging out one of the countries' best Running Backs in Kenneth Walker III. He also did that on 176 less attempts.
Through the air, Willis has a cannon for an arm. At his pro day, it was on full display with some incredible throws that garnered national attention.
He has noticeable "zip," as Jon Robinson said, behind every pass and has the strongest arm in the draft class.
At the senior bowl in February, he also got praise from NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah on his impressive signal calling, an important skill of high-level Quarterbacks.
Off the field, Willis has come across very well in press conferees. He places a major emphasis on working hard, saying what sets him apart from other players is his "will to win." He is committed to improving and appears very coachable.
When confronted with a slightly awkward situation after Ryan Tannehill said it was not his job to mentor Willis, he handled it well and kept it from being blown out of proportion.
Ahead of the draft, Willis's coach at Roswell High School, the school he transferred to, said “I know I’m biased so everybody can think I’m crazy, but anybody that passes on him will feel like teams that passed on Giannis in the 2013 NBA Draft,”
While this may be an extreme comparison, likening Willis to back-to-back NBA MVP and NBA Champion, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Willis has supreme potential.
There are some concerns about Willis, particularly the lesser competition at the FBS level and issues with accuracy and footwork. However, especially given that he was the 86th overall pick, he is well worth the risk.
Because of his extremely strong arm and unrivaled running ability, I see the closest NFL comparison to Willis as the Eagles' Jalen Hurts.
Like Hurts', Willis can evade the pocket when needed and is rapid when in the open field.
Willis has an arm as strong as almost anyone in the NFL and incredible elusiveness. While the transition to the NFL may not be perfect, he has an opportunity to sit behind Ryan Tannehill, learn the idiosyncrasies of the NFL, and continue to improve.
Frankly, I predict that he will be an MVP-caliber player in just a few seasons and win the award by 2025.
Looking at this season, we are just 42 days from the beginning of the Titans preseason and from Malik Willis stepping on the field.