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Galina: Why QB Malik Willis is the 2022 NFL Draft's biggest unknown

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

He has the tools, but does he have the talent? Excuse the reference to a 35-year-old movie, but the idea fits quarterback Malik Willis to a tee. There is no better thrower or runner of the football in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Liberty product can throw it a mile with vapor trails coming off the football and might be the class' best player on the run, regardless of position. Yet, the question is whether his tools are enough for a player who needs to vastly improve his ability to find open receivers. 

Willis might be the all-time “I can fix him” quarterback.

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Projections run the gamut with Willis, and we can see the ebb and flow of ]where he’s been landing in mock drafts over the past year courtesy of Benjamin Robinson’s Grinding the Mocks:

His most recent bump is due to an elite showing at the Senior Bowl, where he graded out to 90.9 over all three practices and the game. That was the highest grade for a quarterback among the six who participated in Mobile, Alabama. It’s tied for the fourth-highest grade by a quarterback in the Senior Bowl since PFF began charting the practices and game. He trails Ian Book, Kellen Mond and Baker Mayfield and is tied with Jarrett Stidham, so it’s hard to find a common theme of NFL success after high grades in the all-star game.

His plummet down draft boards during the 2021 college football season is more concerning. As last offseason's Willis hype started to gain steam, he rose up draft boards leading into the 2021 campaign. PFF's scouting report on him after his 2020 season highlighted the promise of his athletic talent but also the concerns:

“… Willis possesses the best athletic traits in the country because of his arm strength and elite speed. He isn’t fast for a quarterback, he is just plain fast. Hard to tackle in the open field and can fit in any designed quarterback run scheme. His accuracy needs to improve and he needs to anticipate things a bit quicker. The offense didn’t have him make a ton of tough reads but when he had to, his decision making could have been a tick quicker.”

The athletic description of Willis is still spot on. He is electric. The two sentences about his processing were a little rich. It’s not very good. The vision and anticipation are just not there based on the film. Liberty definitely had offensive line concerns, though. The unit's pass-blocking efficiency rating in 2021 ranked 101st in the country when we eliminate RPOs. However, Willis invites a lot of pressure by sticking around in the pocket and then trying to escape late —  which he often can do.

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