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Falcons Draft Watch: QB Malik Willis is on Fire

Falcons passed on a chance to draft a local successor to Matt Ryan. Will they do it again?

The Atlanta Falcons passed on a chance to draft a local player as Matt Ryan's successor when they drafted tight end Kyle Pitts instead of Justin Fields of Kennesaw, Ga.

They could get another chance in the 2022 NFL Draft.

READ MORE: SI.com NFL Draft 2022 NFL Draft Rankings

Liberty University's Malik Willis (6'1 and 215 pounds) attended Roswell High School in North Metro Atlanta before he signed with Auburn University. He transferred to the Flames after the 2018 season.

He had to sit out 2019 because of the transfer rules, but he hit the ground running with Liberty 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 fourteen touchdowns.

He's off to an even better start in 2021.

Through five games his team is 4-1, and he is 76 of 107 passing (71.0%) for 1,105 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

He's also added 418 yards and six touchdowns rushing on 66 carries (6.3 avg).

Willis' passing numbers are good enough to place him top 10 in the country in several categories including completion percentage (10th), yards per attempt (3rd), yards per completion (10th), and touchdowns per completion (7th).

His quarterback rating of 191.7 is good for third in the nation behind Grayson McCall of Coastal Carolina and Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh.

If you're a fan of ESPN's QBR metric, Willis leads the nation.

He's one of two players in the country to be in the top 50 in both passing yards and rushing yards; Nebraska's Adrian Martinez being the other.

Willis is coming off what could be described as his best game of the season on the road against UAB. He was an efficient 13 of 19 passing for 287 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for a season high 144 yards and two touchdowns on 15 attempts.

READ MORE: Where was Cordarrelle Patterson in 4th Quarter vs. Washington?

Liberty's only loss of the season came to Syracuse of the ACC. Skeptics will question Liberty's level of competition, but Willis was fantastic on the road.

He was 14 of 19 passing for 205 yards and three touchdowns. He posted his highest quarterback rating of the season at 216.4. He added 49 yards rushing, and for good measure, he had a reception for 13 yards.

Liberty fell to the Orange 24-21 on the road, but Willis was superb in the game. While Syracuse might not be Alabama when it comes to competition, they're still a Power 5 opponent that Willis had a good showing against.

Willis and Liberty will get another chance against a Power 5 team when they travel to Ole Miss on November 6th.

That game will be thick with plot lines. 

Willis will be going head to head with Matt Corral, another quarterback pegged to go in the first round in next year's NFL Draft, and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze will be returning to Ole Miss where he was resigned after a "troubling pattern of personal conduct."

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