Potential, one of the biggest words you’ll hear during draft breakdowns. Potential will leave NFL General Managers and Draft Analysts foaming at the mouths like they’ve seen a slot machine roll all 7’s, and one player that has all the potential in the world is Liberty quarterback, Malik Willis. Willis’s potential is unmatched in recent years of the draft, he’s so incredibly gifted in terms of arm strength, his elite speed, and just flat athletic ability. I haven’t seen anyone like this since the last unicorn number 7, Michael Vick.
Watching Willis run around and escape pressure in the pocket just sends me into flashbacks of watching Vick make defenders look ridiculous. Willis’s escapability in the pocket is crazy and incredibly fun to watch…but after watching a few games it seems he just wants to play hero ball, a lot. Holding onto the ball, refusal to take check-downs, footwork, staring down receivers; this quickly became the Six Flags Amusement Park if all their flags were red.
Footwork! One of the make-or-break QB mechanics, but also one of the most fixable. Willis will drift around the pocket waiting for his receiver to come open, which often leads to him getting into trouble as he’ll drift out to the outskirts of the pocket and make himself available for pressures. Willis’s deep accuracy is nice but his short and intermediate passing is…leaving something to be desired. His accuracy issues seem to be caused by his propensity to add extra footsteps into his throw before releasing the ball, also causing him to be an inconsistent passer.
The constant playing of hero ball is one of the biggest red flags for me. His hero ball play is really a culmination of all of his bad traits coming together. He doesn’t progress through his reads quickly at all and has a strong tendency to stare down one receiver, if that one receiver isn’t open it’s time to roll out. When he rolls out he keeps his eyes downfield, which I like, but usually is still stuck on that one read, trying to direct him into space. If the receiver can’t get into open space he’ll take off, which is also fine, but there are a lot of moments when he should’ve just got rid of it. I don’t believe Willis has ever heard the phrase “just throw it away” in his life.
Earlier I compared Willis to Michael Vick, and I stand by that fully, they’re both insanely athletic and came out raw. However, being as raw as he is also makes me think of Buffalo Bills’ QB, Josh Allen. If Willis gets the same level of attention and quality of development as Allen did he’ll be great and quickly climb the quarterback rankings. Willis has regressed in completion percentage and interceptions since 2020, that’s also a scary thought and not a great sign of things to come. Willis is a big play waiting to happen and his potential is through the roof, waiting for an NFL GM to pull the lever of the slot machine…the question is will he be a jackpot or bust?