Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Many around the NFL believe that the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft are Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis.
But according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Willis might be setting himself apart with how he’s impressed league personnel during this week’s NFL combine.
“The overwhelming majority of those evaluators also believe Willis has the highest ceiling of the signal-callers, but he’ll need at least a season to develop,” Howe wrote. “Willis has continued to blow away coaches and executives during his meetings, which was also the case at the Senior Bowl.”
This year’s draft is notable because it likely will mark the first time since 2017 that a quarterback isn’t selected with the No. 1 overall pick. Some draft prognosticators believe it’s possible that a QB isn’t chosen at all in the first round.
But Willis might prove to be the prospect worth taking a chance on because of his massive potential. A transfer from Auburn, he threw for 2,857 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while adding 878 yards on the ground and 13 rushing touchdowns in his second season with Liberty.
According to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, Willis exuded confidence in his media interviews, telling reporters Wednesday that he believes he should be the first quarterback off the board in April.
While the majority of teams picking in the top 10 aren’t in need of a new signal caller, ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said in January that a team to watch could be the Atlanta Falcons at pick No. 8.
“Maybe Atlanta. … They passed on quarterbacks last year, the heir-apparent to [Matt] Ryan. Do they pass on the heir-apparent this year? If Willis is really strong in this draft process over the next 94 days leading up to the draft, I think Malik Willis could end up an Atlanta Falcon at pick No. 8,” Kiper said.
Willis is set to participate in throwing drills at the combine on Wednesday. He was one of the many quarterbacks to opt not to run the 40-yard dash.