While it appears that Matt Ryan is expected to return as the Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback in 2022, it doesn't mean the team won't consider taking a quarterback in April's upcoming draft.
And according to Sports Illustrated's latest Mock Draft, the Falcons will bring Malik Willis in as the potential heir apparent to Ryan.
Scouting report blurb: "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."
One of the biggest winners from the 2022 Senior Bowl, Willis has become a hot name at quarterback around the league to be the top one taken and inside the top ten.
The Falcons might need to pull the trigger and bring a hometown hero back home. And based on his Senior Bowl comments, it sounds like Willis would like to work alongside Ryan.
Also noteworthy: The Falcons have conducted a Senior Bowl interview with Liberty University's Willis (6-1 and 215 pounds), who attended Roswell High School in North Metro Atlanta before he signed with Auburn University. He transferred to the Flames after the 2018 season.
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He had to sit out in 2019 because of the transfer rules, but he hit the ground running with Liberty in 2020 and hasn't looked back.
In 10 games as a sophomore in 2020, Willis threw for 2,260 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions. He also rushed for 944 yards and 14 touchdowns.
During this past season, he threw for 2,837 yards and 27 touchdowns against 12 interceptions in 13 games. Willis also ran for 878 yards and 13 touchdowns.
And at this Senior Bowl? He's been a standout.
Willis reminds of the Trey Lance archetype from last year's draft. Like Lance, Willis is a mobile quarterback who didn't get a whole lot of attention due to his small-school status. He's also someone that is seen to be a project that needs time to develop.
The 49ers jumped all the way to No. 3 overall because of the high demand for quarterbacks at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft. This year? We're not sure where Willis is going yet. But we're tantalized by the idea of a Ryan admirer being Ryan's heir at home.
Although he and Ryan couldn't be any more different as quarterbacks, that could be what makes a mentorship pairing like this so unique.
Willis can find ways to learn about the professionalism it takes to be an NFL quarterback and the reads and speed of the game from the quarterback of his hometown team growing up. Then Willis can add his own flare and rise to the occasion when his number gets called. Sounds like a decent idea to me.