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College-to-pro projections for Liberty QB Malik Willis

Mobile, Alabama, USA; Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (7) rolls out to pass against the Eastern Michigan Eagles in the third quarter during the 2021 LendingTree Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert McDuffie-USA TODAY Sports

While we still have one more game in the NFL season, there are 30 other teams in the NFL, and many of these teams really need a quarterback.

Unfortunately, the 2022 NFL Draft lacks a blue-chip prospect at the position, as the quarterback with the best odds to be taken No. 1 overall boasts odds of 25/1, per DraftKings Sportsbook. If teams remain unsold on a passer heading into April's draft, it will be the first time since 2017 that a quarterback is not selected with the No. 1 pick.

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The quarterback with the best odds, Malik Willis, has an interesting background, having played for a program in Liberty that was barely on the radar just a few years ago.

In guiding the Flames to an 8-5 record, Willis earned a 91.7 overall PFF grade, a 77.9 PFF passing grade and a 94.5 PFF rushing grade. After averaging 8.6 yards per pass attempt in 2020, Willis averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt in 2021, generating 40 big-time throws while limiting his turnover-worthy plays to 12.

However, some of his underlying data — data that translates both from season to season and from college to pro — paints a slightly bleaker picture relative to others who have made the jump:

Wilis’ percentiles against other quarterbacks with PFF college data who played in the NFL (2020-2021 included)

Wilis’ percentiles against other quarterbacks with PFF college data who played in the NFL (2021 included)

Willis is a tough evaluation going into draft season due to both a lower level of competition and his lower level of support. He reportedly wowed evaluators at the Senior Bowl this past week, which also muddies the waters.

PFF grades can tease out some of this conflicting information, as big-time throws that fall incomplete are still graded well. But, to really get to a sound projection, one needs to adjust the play-by-play data for both opponent and team.

Our college-to-pro system does exactly this — you can see what these projections said about Carson Strong a month back allowing users to adjust the situation in which a player plays and predict their future production from their rookie year to five years into the future.

Here are Willis’ projected rookie yards per attempt averages and completion percentages in a league-average scheme with league-average support:


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