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Dynasty Prospect Scouting Report: Malik Willis

By Matt Schauf 12:25pm EDT 3/22/22


Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Height: 6’0.5
Weight: 219
Age: 22.8


Combine Results:

Willis got measured (9.5-inch hands, whew!) and threw at the Combine but did not carry out any of the athletic testing. We’ll see what numbers come out of his Pro Day.


College Career:

Willis was deemed a 3-star recruit out of Georgia in the 2017 class – designated an “athlete,” and ranked just 21st in that group. Willis committed to Virginia Tech before his senior season and planned to play DB.

But then came a transfer for his final high school campaign and a sparkling year as dual-threat QB. He threw for 2,563 yards, ran for 1,033 and racked up 37 total TDs. Auburn swooped in to offer him a shot to play QB, and Willis switched commitments.

Willis arrived at Auburn at the same time as junior-college transfer – and future New England Patriot – Jarrett Stidham, who ran the offense through 2017 and 2018. Even with Stidham gone for 2019, Willis found himself stuck behind 2 other QBs battling for the gig. So he transferred to Liberty.

After sitting out a transfer year, Willis took over in 2020 and led the Flames in both passing and rushing. His 14 ground TDs ranked 7th nationally. Despite losing sack yardage from his rushing stats, Willis still averaged 1.0 yard more per carry than his team’s top 2 RBs.

His final campaign delivered more strong numbers across the board but featured some up-and-down play. Willis tallied 11 TDs vs. 0 INTs through his 1st 5 games of the year. But then came 3-INT outings against Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe. Willis later tossed 5 total picks across consecutive games against Ole Miss and Louisiana.

In the end, he had doubled his INT total but also nudged his passing-TD rate up and kept his rate stats in line with 2020. Willis tied for 15th in overall Pro Football Focus offensive grade among all 381 FBS QBs. Carrying the nation’s top rushing grade at the position certainly didn’t hurt. But Willis also ranked 3rd in “big-time throw” percentage among 172 QBs with at least 100 dropbacks. (PFF defines a “big-time throw” as “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.”)


Film Study:

Games watched: N.C. State 2020, Virginia Tech 2020, Western Kentucky 2020, Ole Miss 2021, Old Dominion 2021

SPOILER ALERT: This guy will wind up #1 at QB in our dynasty rookie rankings this year.

I haven’t even bothered confirming that with Jared or Kevin yet. It’s just an easy call. That’s what happens when you come out in a lackluster class; run with speed, elusiveness and daring …

… and throw with zip or touch to all levels.

That last one particularly struck me, because he almost certainly could have run that ball into the end zone. But – as a 1st-year starter – he realized the quickest path is to pull up and make the throw.

That kind of play positions Willis more as a QB who can run than a runner who can throw.

The good thing for us is that we don’t have to figure out just what his chances are of actually succeeding in the NFL. The league itself shows us over and over again that even dedicated, highly paid NFL evaluators can’t be sure who will or won’t make it as an NFL QB.

We could go deeper into what Willis needs to improve, but it doesn't really matter. He could never improve as a passer at all and still deliver nice fantasy value once he gets onto the NFL field.

So let’s just say the guy brings an impressive set of physical skills and move on to the next section.


Fantasy Potential:

If Willis hits, he’ll bring a high fantasy ceiling. That’s easy to see from any game film you watch, plus the 1,822 rushing yards and 27 ground TDs he racked up over the past 2 years (despite losing 70 sacks’ worth of yardage from those numbers).

The biggest fantasy question might be how soon he can get on the field, and a key part of that answer will likely have to wait until after he’s drafted. If Willis lands in Carolina – and they don’t acquire another veteran – then it’s tough to see the Panthers benching Willis for a year behind any combo of Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker. Seattle and Drew Lock? Could be similar.

But if Willis goes to a team such as Pittsburgh, Washington or Atlanta, we could see him needing to wait.

The game tapes show a somewhat raw player who makes questionable decisions at times and is too turnover prone. Willis actually got better in that area last season, dipping from 11 fumbles in 2020 (16 by Pro Football Focus’ numbers) to 3 last year.

And even his spike in 2021 INTs was deceptive. According to PFF, Willis’ percentage of turnover-worthy plays dipped from 5.1% to 4.0%. That lower number still checks in highest among early-round QB candidates in this class, though. And it shows up on game tapes, with Willis holding the ball too long at times and trying to make plays he probably shouldn’t.

That’s not a long-term concern for his fantasy outlook at all. In fact, our fantasy lineups would almost always rather have a physically gifted QB who takes dumb shots downfield. Because the dumb shots that pay off give us more points than the INTs take away.

Instead, this will mainly be a question for where Willis should land as a 2022 redraft selection. He’s going low in QB2 range in best-ball drafting so far, which mitigates the risk that he doesn’t play at all (especially if you take him as 1 of 3 QBs).

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