NAME: Malik Willis
WEIGHT: 215 lbs
CLASS: Redshirt Senior
HOMETOWN: Atlanta, Georgia
HIGH SCHOOL: Roswell
Willis was a 3 star recruit in the 2017 recruiting class. He was ranked the 21st athlete in his recruiting class and the 35th overall prospect in the state of Georgia. As a senior at Roswell High School, Willis led his team to the 7A state championship game, was named the class 7A Offensive Player of the Year, and was selected to first team all-state. He played at Roswell after transferring from Westlake High School, where he played his sophomore and junior seasons. Willis received offers from the likes of Virginia Tech, Ball State, Air Force, and Georgia State before ultimately accepting an offer from Auburn. After two seasons at Auburn where Willis only totaled 14 pass attempts, 69 yards, and 1 touchdown, Willis transferred to Liberty University, where he led the Flames to back to back winning seasons, including a 10-1 season in 2020. During his two seasons at Liberty, Willis accounted for over 5,100 yards of passing and 47 passing touchdowns as well as over 1,800 rushing yards with 13 rushing touchdowns.
GAMES WATCHED: 2020 – Western Kentucky, Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss; 2021 – Old Dominion, Louisiana
Arm Talent – 75 (Elite): Willis has an absolute rocket attached to his right shoulder. Makes 50-60 yard throws look effortless. Can make deep throws both inside and outside the pocket, including on the run. When his feet are properly squared up, he can put a ton of zip on the ball to squeeze it into tight windows (although that is a rarity, more on that in accuracy). Throws with a lot of punch and makes it look very easy. One of, if not the strongest arm in this entire class.
Accuracy – 30 (Poor): Inconsistencies are Willis’ biggest drawback as a prospect. Willis has more bad plays than good when it comes to delivering an accurate football, and you never quite know where the ball is going to go when he lets go of it. Sometimes he will drop a perfectly placed ball over the receiver’s shoulder for a big play, and then two plays later he is throwing screen passes and middle crossers into the dirt and out routes to cheerleaders. If Willis is able to hone in his ball placement and accurately place throws for his weapons to make plays, he can be a really good quarterback in the NFL.
Play Out of Structure – 65 (Star): Willis is great outside of the pocket when the play breaks down because of his elite running ability. However, I wish he was smarter when his play structure breaks down, not just when his pocket does. When Willis’ first read is unavailable, he will either force the ball into a tight window and tight coverage – often causing a turnover – or will take off running without scanning his secondary reads. If his first throw is not available, Willis will rarely look to make a play elsewhere with the football. But, when he does decide to tuck and run when his primary target is covered, good things happen because of his ability to make guys miss and get yardage with his legs.
Pocket Presence – 40 (Below Average): One area that confused me about Willis was his pocket presence. For a player as gifted athletically as he is, he doesn’t always know when to move out the way or tuck it and run. Liberty’s offensive line did Willis no favors, as he was seemingly under duress at least once per drive. But Willis did not do a great job at diagnosing pressure, especially from his backside, as he would only ever bail a pocket when faced with duress when the pocket had completely collapsed. Willis would often face pressure and have an alley to escape, but wouldn’t leave until his pocket completely collapsed in front of him. If Willis can learn to sense duress a little bit sooner, it would help eliminate some of the sacks that he took this year.
Decision Making – 40 (Below Average): As mentioned above in accuracy, Willis has some inconsistencies and question marks when it comes to decision making. I couldn’t quite tell if it was an inability to read certain coverages, or trying to stick to his first read (I would lean towards the latter), but Willis would make multiple throws a game into double and triple coverage trying to force the ball into a window that simply was not there.
Throwing Mechanics – 50 (Average): Willis’ mechanics when given time to throw are pretty clean, as he is able to square his body up with his target and plant his feet properly. However, Willis struggled with mechanics when he was forced to throw under pressure. At times when faced with pressure, Willis wouldn’t fully plant his front foot on delivery and release solely on his backfoot, while other times he wouldn’t reset his body towards his target leading to wildly inaccurate placement of the football due to the angle of his body. Willis also relied solely on his arm talent and strength a lot of times which led to his mechanics being overlooked when preparing for a throw.
Touch/Ball Placement – 45 (Fringe Average): I don’t have a major issue with Willis’ ability to throw the ball with touch or softness. My issue is with ball placement. Accuracy is a major concern I have and accuracy and ball placement pretty much go hand in hand with each other. Willis will often put his receiver in bad places to make a play on the ball. Aside from throws in the dirt, which came frequently, Willis would place the ball too far out in front or behind his receivers at a high rate causing turnovers and missed opportunities for the offense. Reigning in his arm to make smart, accurate, and on target decisions will be key for Willis moving forward in the NFL.
Progressions – 20 (Not NFL Caliber): This was super hard to evaluate, but right now as it stands Willis struggles mightily with scanning and looking through his progressions and targets. Some of it has to do with Hugh Freeze’s quick one read offense at Liberty, but on plays where that first read wasn’t there, Willis would still try to force the ball instead of turning his head to scan his other options. There were a handful of plays where Willis would make it to a second read, but not enough consistently to warrant a higher grade. I am a little concerned that Willis might take longer to transition to an offense that is less reliant on one-read concepts. When he had to make a play outside of his first option, Willis often seemed hesitant and unconfident.
Mobility – 80 (Hall of Fame): Electric playmaker with his legs. Can move inside the pocket to extend plays, but is especially dynamic outside the pocket. Incredibly athletic and fast in the open field, and isn’t afraid to take hits as he rarely gives himself up when scrambling or taking off running. One of the most mobile and athletic players I have ever evaluated as a prospect.
Size/Frame – 50 (Average): Willis doesn’t have the best size, but it will work for the NFL, especially for his play style. Adding more bulk and strength to him will limit his ability to make plays on the run and in the open field, which would negate one of his best traits. Letting him play at his current size and tailoring a system to protect him will be his best chance of success at the next level.
Red Flag Concern 10/10: No major red flags or concerns were found during research for this report.
RAS Score: Incomplete
Tape Grade (w/o RAS): 7.21
Round Grade: 3rd
Summary: Willis is one of the most electrifying and polarizing prospects in this entire draft class. He has some incredible elite traits, like his big time arm and his ability to create with his legs both inside and outside the pocket, that will excite a lot of NFL front offices. But those high level traits don’t come without a steep learning curve. Willis has a lot of things that will need some fine-tuning to become a successful NFL starter. Hugh Freeze’s one read offense at Liberty didn’t give Willis the responsibility to scan the field for open receivers because everything was mostly scripted to go to a certain target every play. Willis’ accuracy and decision making inconsistencies are well documented and an immense question mark for him as a prospect. He will need a year or two to develop as well as a creative and innovative coaching staff that will tailor their offense to his high level skills and try to minimize his weaknesses.
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