Saturday, May 21, 2022

2022 NFL Draft: Titans end Malik Willis’ slide at No. 86 overall in Round 3 after trading up with Raiders

After an unexpected long wait, Malik Willis has found his first NFL home. The former Liberty quarterback was selected by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 86 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft in the third round. The Titans traded up to pick Willis, sending the No. 90 pick and the No. 169 pick to the Raiders.

Wills — who was projected by many to be a first-round pick — was the third quarterback off the board. The Steelers took Kenny Pickett at No. 20 in the first round, then came 52 picks, the longest span between two quarterbacks selected in the draft since 1975, before the Falcons took Desmond Ridder at No. 74 in the third round. Willis went 12 picks later.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Willis enjoyed a highly successful two-year run at Liberty after transferring from Auburn. During that span, Willis threw 47 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. When he wasn’t beating teams with his arm, Willis did plenty of damage with his legs. He ran for a whopping 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns at Liberty while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. 

A native of Atlanta, Willis led the Flames to a 10-1 record and 17th national ranking. He won MVP honors in leading Liberty to a victory over ninth-ranked Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl. In his final college game, Willis scored five total touchdowns in leading the Flames to a victory over Eastern Michigan in the LendingTree Bowl. 

Willis heads to a Titans team that is currently quarterbacked by Ryan Tannehill, who has compiled a 30-13 regular season record as Tennessee’s starter. With Tannehill under center, the Titans made a surprise trip to the AFC Championship Game in 2019. Tennessee has not been as successful in its last two postseason trips, however, as the Titans’ last two seasons have ended with home playoff losses to Baltimore and Cincinnati, respectively. 

Scouting report

Rating: 88.37 (Long-term starter)

Pro Comparison: Mike Vick

Strengths: Rifle arm and can make throws few other quarterbacks would even attempt. Can be special with off-platform throws while on the move and a high-end athlete who becomes a running back with ball in his hands. Huge high-upside prospect who shows the ability to do things elite NFL quarterbacks do every week — throwing accurately on the run, throwing with anticipation, make tight-window throws, and keeping his eyes downfield when the pocket gets muddy.

Weaknesses: Despite his arm strength, Willis can sometimes throw himself into turnovers because of general inaccuracy. Throws only fastballs and doesn’t show much feathering of passes over second-level defenders, and more times than not, he’ll run at the first sign of trouble. Needs to do a better job of pre-snap recognition and then taking what the defense gives him. Shows glimpses of it but needs to do it more consistently.

Accolades:

  • Past two seasons: Most total TDs in FBS (74)
  • 17-6 career record as Liberty starting QB

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