Top-Ranked QB Malik Willis Still Awaiting NFL Draft Call

Top-Ranked QB Malik Willis Still Awaiting NFL Draft Call Liberty quarterback Malik Willis throws a pass at the nfl draft combine Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

By Jay Clemons | Thursday, 28 April 2022 10:48 PM

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis — the consensus top-ranked QB of the 2022 class —unwittingly became the NFL Draft's biggest story Thursday night by simply doing nothing.

That inaction came in the form of Willis sliding down the draft board, getting passed over by quarterback-needy franchises like the Detroit Lions (drafting No. 2 overall), Houston Texans (No. 3), Atlanta Falcons (No. 8), Seattle Seahawks (No. 9), New Orleans Saints (traded up to No. 11), Lions again (traded up to No. 12), Texans again (traded back to No. 15), Washington Commanders (No. 16), and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 20).

What is more, Willis was not even the first quarterback taken in Round 1. That honor fell to Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett, who was drafted by the neighboring Pittsburgh Steelers at 20th overall.

At the time of this writing, there's still time for Willis to become the 27th African-American quarterback to go in Round 1, joining a hallowed fraternity that includes Doug Williams (1978, Buccaneers), Steve McNair (1995, Oilers/Titans), Cam Newton (2011, Panthers), Donovan McNabb (1999, Eagles), Michael Vick (2001, Falcons), Jameis Winston (2015, Buccaneers), Kyler Murray (2019, Cardinals), Lamar Jackson (2018, Ravens), and Patrick Mahomes (2017, Chiefs), who could end up breaking every NFL passing record when his career — health permitting — ends in 12, 15, or 17 years.

Willis' college journey started at Auburn (2017-18); and after that, he made the low-pressure journey to Liberty, a tiny and private Evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia, co-founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. in 1971.

In two seasons at Liberty, under the quarterback-whispering direction of head coach Hugh Freeze (famous for his coaching time at Ole Miss and being portrayed in the movie, "The Blind Side,"), Willis accounted for 3,194 total yards/34 total touchdowns in 2020 and then 3,735 total yards/40 total TDs in 2021.

But Willis' long-term appeal goes beyond a two-year sampling of stats. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, and possessing lightning-quick feet and a rocket arm, Willis is loaded with upside as an NFL prospect.

Just check out this highlight video.

Willis' moves when evading oncoming pass-rushers might have made Bo Jackson blush, if Bo had been obligated to share the "Tecmo Bowl" video-game spotlight from the 1990s.

Where will Willis eventually end up?

That might be a question for Day 2 of the draft.