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NFL Draft Profile: Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty Flames

NFL Draft profile scouting report for Liberty quarterback, Malik Willis

malik willis
liberty flames logo

#7
Pos: QB
Ht: 6004
Wt: 219
Hand: 0948
Arm: 3168
Wing: 7738
DOB: 5/25/_
Eligible: 2022
Atlanta, GA
Roswell

Malik Willis
Liberty Flames


One-Liners

While he must learn to override his big-play mentality at times, Malik Willis possesses borderline-ideal traits for a dual-threat NFL quarterback. He has the potential to be a game-changer at the next level.

Pros:

Malik Willis has a thicker, more well-built frame than some people may give him credit for. He is a dynamic runner who can execute on designed run plays and also extend plays with his legs to save a bad situation. He offers strength, as well as speed, in his running ability. As a passer, Willis has incredible arm talent. He shows the ability to throw off-platform and on the run, adjusting arm angle if needed. He shows good arm strength all over the field. The Liberty quarterback consistently shows good ball placement on his throws outside the hashes at all levels of the field. Displays a good mix of velocity throws and touch passes. When given the time to stand in the pocket, he shows the ability to survey the field and work through his progressions. 

Cons:

There is definitely some tweaking that needs to be done to his throwing technique to make his base more balanced throughout the process, as well as more consistency in his arm angle and timing. He didn’t get much help from his offensive line this past season, but Willis still was often too slow to react to pressure, resulting in sacks or missed opportunities for quick completions. He makes some questionable throws into tight coverage that resulted in either turnovers or turnover-worthy plays. Willis also needs to be more protective with the ball in his hands as he maneuvers the pocket. He was sometimes too quick to scramble and run, rather than wait for his receivers’ routes to progress. His accuracy can be worked on over the middle of the field in the intermediate areas. 

Summary:

Originally from Auburn, Malik Willis transferred to Liberty to play under Hugh Freeze for two seasons. Over these two seasons, Willis’ talent has shone through. As a passer, he has all the arm talent you could ask for in terms of strength, velocity and touch. He can fit it through tight windows anywhere on the field and add the needed touch to get it done over the top. As a runner, he poses a real threat both in and out of structure to rip off big plays. Willis was held back by his offensive line, causing Willis to scramble early and often, never really being able to settle into any sort of rhythm in the pocket. He will need to clean up on decision-making, poise and timing to truly ascend his game to the next level. 

Background:

Malik Willis attended Roswell High School in Georgia where he passed for 2,562 yards and rushed for 1,033 yards as a senior, accounting for 37 touchdowns. Willis was named Class 7A AJC offensive player of the year and first team all-state. After high school, 247Sports ranked him as a 3-Star recruit, the 368th-best recruit nationally, the 21st-ranked athlete recruit in the country and the 35th recruit in the state of Georgia.

Willis committed to Auburn in 2017 where he saw playing time in 15 games during the 2017 and 2018 seasons and completed a total of 14 passes for 69 yards and one touchdown while he also rushed 28 times for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He then transferred to Liberty for a larger role and sat out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules. In 2020, Willis made a name for himself, finishing 170/265 for 64.2% completion percentage, tallying 2,250 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to six interceptions while adding 944 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. He was named VaSID Offensive Player of the Year, put on the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Watch List and the Maxwell Award Watch List. 2021 saw Willis finish 207/339 for 61.1% completion percentage, tallying 2,857 passing yards and 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions while adding 878 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.

Willis’ journey to the NFL hasn’t been smooth sailing and he’s spoken about a reality check he endured at Auburn, “I wasn’t working as hard as I could outside of football. I wasn’t caring about school because I was just trying to go to the league. I wasn’t caring about watching extra film. Whatever I do, they’re going to have to stop me regardless. But that’s not how you play the position. That’s not a true leader and a true quarterback. I just had to figure out that stuff for myself. People are going to say what they want. I needed to put in more effort. I needed to take it more seriously. I was more of a ‘me’ person. I just needed to grow into a ‘we’ person.” Willis talked the talk but he also walked the walk, as he grinded and grew as a quarterback and person, when he transferred to Liberty, “I was just so immature. I just needed a smack upside the head to kick me into gear. I had a whole year here to redshirt. That was me maturing as a leader, me maturing as a quarterback, watching that film, dissecting and seeing what I need to do, understanding what defenses are trying to do to us, their responsibilities, and still homing in on my body and mind and trying to get right physically, mentally and spiritually. Willis’ honesty and self awareness is refreshing and rare for a young individual, “I had to overcome some of my deficiencies. I always relied on talent, so I was a bad practicer. I hated practice. Then when I got here, I was just trying to focus on trying to get better at practice every day. I just had to learn how to practice and what it’s really for. I used to feel like games got you more experience. Everybody is always talking about experience. But at the end of the day, you have to hone those things, so when the bullets start flying, you rely on what you practice. I had to learn that. I was trying to do that. I love practice now.”


Grades

Current Player Value/Potential Player Value

7.7/ 9.2

Floor/Ceiling: 1-Year Development / Above-Average Starter

Scheme Fit: Spread Offense

Grade: Mid/Late 1st Round

Injury History: Left elbow injury in 2020 - missed one game. Foot injury in 2021 - didn’t miss any time.

Character Notes: N/A

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Quote from NFL Combine: Day 1 Winners: Willis backed up a strong week in Mobile, with another in Indianapolis. It was said that teams were pleased with his acumen and people skills in the interviews, and they surely were pleased with his game after last night. Although Willis did not run, he participated in on-field drills where his live arm quite literally came to life. The touch and velocity you see on tape and in person were again on display. With his ability to stretch the field with his legs and arm, many will look back on his competitions over the past few weeks and leave him as the winner out of all quarterbacks.

Willis was asked if the Pittsburgh Steelers would be a good fit for him and this is what he had to say: "I'm not sure. I don't know enough about their offense. I met the coaches and I really can get behind that. They're good people. All these coaches have information they can pass on to me and help me get better. I wouldn't have a clue."

He was also asked about what type of offense would fit him best and this is what Willis had to say: "One that scores points. That's all I've got for that one."

2/10/22 - "He's so athletic, when he moved in the pocket, he covered more ground than other quarterbacks. A jump-cut up for Malik would cover half a yard to a yard more ground than you want, and then the (interior) pressure would be in his face. We did a lot of rhythm slide stuff so he could be a little more efficient with those movements, and take those steps with less exaggeration." – Liberty OC Kent Austin

2/6/22 - While his passing numbers of only two completions for 11 yards may leave some to be desired, Willis (Along with other American team quarterbacks) was under constant pressure during his series and repeatedly had to scramble. He did so to the tune of 54 yards on four carries, including a 27-yard run. Coming into Senior Bowl week, the quarterback class had yet to project a true number one. While the evaluation process is still in the early stages, the talk around Mobile was that Willis is the front runner after an impressive week. The ball pops off his hand, as shown in his power as both a passer and a runner. When speaking with Willis on his Senior Bowl experience, he said: "I had a lot of fun this week, I did some stuff well, but there is a lot I need to work on. I look forward to doing that and enjoying the process." A very humble and soft-spoken athlete, Willis will win teams over on the field and during interviews. 

News

“He can run the football, he can pass the football and he can make you miss and extend plays. He’s got a sixth sense in as far as avoiding the rush defense. He’s got great acceleration and very good stop-and-go. In the open field, it’s very, very difficult to get him down.” – Army defensive coordinator Nate Woody on Malik Willis

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