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Dynasty Rookie Prospect Profile: Malik Willis (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Derek Brown | @dbro_ffb | Featured Writer
May 4, 2022

Malik Willis possesses possibly the broadest range of outcomes for any player in the NFL Draft. He began his collegiate career at Auburn as a three-star prospect (2017-2018), attempting just 14 passes before entering the transfer portal after the 2018 season. He redshirted in 2019 after the NCAA denied his request to play immediately. Willis then spent his next two years tearing it up at Liberty, flashing the tantalizing tools that now have him in the first round (and possibly top-five) discussion. His college resume concludes with a 78.7 QBR (66th percentile, per PlayerProfiler.com) and 8.5 yards per attempt (64th percentile). He is a magnificent ball of clay who could be molded into a franchise-changing player or go down in NFL lore as a “what could have been” cautionary tale.

Malik Willis 2022 NFL Draft Profile

Position Quarterback
School Liberty
Height 6’1″
Weight 219
40-yard dash N/A
2021 Age 22
Class Junior
Recruit stars* 3

2022 NFL Draft Prediction: Top-10

* Recruit stats via 247Sports

Malik Willis College Statistics

*Seasons at Liberty

Malik Willis Dynasty Fantasy Analysis

Malik Willis is a mixed-bag prospect as a passer, which can be seen from his numbers below.

Among FBS QBs with 200 or more dropbacks (Statistics via PFF):
Year Adjusted completion % (Rank) Big-time throw rate Turnover worthy play rate
2021 70.1% (81st of 124) 11.1% (1st of 124) 3.7% (40th of 124)
2020 73.6% (33rd of 80) 7.1% (17th of 80) 5.3% (70th of 80)

 

2021 Adjusted completion rates at various passing depths

(Short / Intermediate minimum 50 attempts, Deep minimum 20 attempts, per PFF)

Field depth % of overall passing attempts Adjusted completion % (rank)
Deep (20+) 20.9% 50.7% (23rd of 140)
Intermediate (10-19) 21.2% 50.0% (96th of 102)
Short (0-9) 38.3% 83.1% (53rd of 143)

 

2020 Adjusted completion rates at various passing depths

(Short / Intermediate minimum 50 attempts, Deep minimum 20 attempts, per PFF)

Field depth % of overall passing attempts Adjusted completion % (rank)
Deep (20+) 19.4% 47.1% (31st of 108)
Intermediate (10-19) 23.6% 64.5% (29th of 60)
Short (0-9) 38.0% 85.0% (23rd of 111)

Willis saw a drop in his overall accuracy (adjusted completion rate) from 2020 to 2021, but he did improve in other areas. His deep completion rate increased, as did his precision in that area of the field. The downfall in his passing accuracy numbers was intermediate throws, where his accuracy plummeted. However, his short-area accuracy remained stable between the two seasons. While Willis might never be among the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, if his passing prowess between 10 and 19 yards bounces back to 2020 levels, it should be more than adequate.

Willis finished 31st or better in deep-ball accuracy in both seasons, and that attribute jumps off the screen when you watch his games. He possesses effortless velocity and power on his throws from the pocket or on the move. When he's dialed in, his rocket-launcher right arm has the precision of a trained sniper. He can thread the needle at any level of the field.

As seen on film, he hangs in the pocket and sometimes falls in love with the splash plays that litter his games. This is reflected in the fantastic big-time throw rate bump he saw in 2021 (ranking first among QBs). The encouraging statistic that came along for the ride while he pushed his foot down on the gas is that he managed to lower his turnover-worthy play rate. While Willis sometimes has a gunslinger mentality, his yearning to make a play was better measured in 2021. Willis trusts his ability and his receivers (sometimes to a fault), as he displays zero hesitation throwing into tight coverage. With the tighter throwing lanes of the NFL now on the horizon, I mark this down in the plus column.

His fascinating arm talent is only half of the equation. When he escapes the pocket, magic happens. With a Houdini-like ability to pull a rushing play out of his hat, Willis is off to the races. His immediate acceleration and pull-away speed are balanced by his patience and willingness to follow his blocks and set up running lanes. With a thick lower half, he also has a unique ability to break tackles. In 2021, among all rushers (both RB and non), Willis finished second in yards after contact per attempt (5.26). He also ranked first in missed tackles forced (90), finishing immediately ahead of Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker. Walker needed 262 rushing attempts to pile up this number. At the same time, Willis cruised past him with only 86 attempts. While he adjusts to the speed and nuance of the NFL game, Willis' legs will allow him to create game-changing plays at any time.

Now that I've wiped the drool from my face after covering his strengths, we need to discuss the pieces of his game that need further sculpting. While he did display the processing power to go through his progressions, sometimes throwing to his third read, many of his collegiate plays were scripted. Even in plays where he doesn't have a manufactured first read, he tends to lock onto his first read and stare down his man. Especially in the Louisiana-Monroe game, this was detrimental. As a result, the opposing corners began to jump the routes, which was the reason for two of his three interceptions. In that same game, we did see incremental growth, though. After one such play where the corner cheated on the route for a near-interception, on the next snap, Willis made it to his third read, hitting a receiver on a short route on the opposite hash. These flashes offer the promise that he can actualize his ceiling if he can do this sort of thing consistently.

His longing to make a big play has also resulted in high sack rates and left yards on the field. In 2021, among quarterbacks with 50 or more pressured dropbacks (per PFF), Willis absorbed the second-most sacks in FBS. While his ranking of 14th in this category, with 25.2% of those sacks attributed to him, isn't great, it's also not the worst in this class. Sam Howell (ninth, 27.5%) and Kenny Pickett (13th, 25.6%) finished worse in this metric. Willis can improve in this area by cleaning up another part of his game: taking what the defense is giving him.

There are too many instances in games where check-down and underneath routes are wide open, and Willis ignores them. Instead of hitting his target underneath, he'll chuck the ball downfield into tight coverage for an incompletion. This could be an indication that he needs to move more quickly through his progressions. There are moments when he's a tick slow. Willis will have to string together more consistency in all of these phases of the game while improving in others in order to hit his gargantuan ceiling.

Player Comparison

Jalen Hurts with the raw arm talent of Josh Allen

Willis will be among the best rushing quarterbacks in the league the moment he's drafted. With a cannon that can make every throw imaginable, the biggest projection for Willis is the mental aspect and consistency with his accuracy.

Landing Spot and Dynasty Outlook

The fall from draft capital grace was tough to watch for Malik Willis. I could easily rant here about how NFL teams are foolish for passing on his moon-shot traits, but I'll save that for another day. Despite falling to the third round, Willis still has a path to play as early as next season. Ryan Tannehill will be entering his age 35 season in 2023, and the Titans can save nearly 18 million against the cap if they were to cut him. The upside with Willis is immense just off of his rushing ability alone. While Tannehill won't be mentoring Willis, it might not stop this talented rookie from taking his job.

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