Will Malik Willis fall in NFL Draft? 4 likely landing spots if he slides past Panthers

Will Malik Willis fall in NFL Draft? 4 likely landing spots if he slides past Panthers

Malik Willis is one of the more intriguing quarterbacks in this year’s draft.

The Liberty product was a transfer from Auburn, throwing for more than 5,000 yards in his last two seasons with the Flames. Willis has been moved up and down mock drafts all spring, as his potential is exciting in a shallow quarterback class but his rawness at the position makes him a harder sell.

Willis is perceived as the No. 1 quarterback in this year’s draft, according to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer, who has him going No. 9 to the Seahawks ahead of Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett. Willis is a tough, athletic quarterback, but teams may be wary of him as a quarterback who may only thrive in a very specific system.

Willis has high upside, but the risk is there as well. With Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young potentially coming out in next year’s draft, teams may prefer to bide their time for them and pass on quarterbacks this year. There are, however, several teams that think they’re in a competitive enough place to take a QB this year. Willis will inevitably go to one of those teams.

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When will it happen? It’s hard to say. The Panthers are the most quarterback-desperate team in this draft, so they’re the control group here. If Willis falls past Carolina at No. 6, we may see him slip. Here are four teams that may pick Willis up should he fall past that point.

9. Seattle Seahawks

You could certainly make the argument that any quarterback drafted in the top 10 this year didn’t “slip,” but the Seahawks are undoubtedly a potential suitor for Willis. Since trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos, they’ve been involved in every quarterback rumor this offseason. Willis is no exception. A mobile QB who has a big arm he loves to uncork makes a lot of sense for a Pete Carroll team, unless he’s looking to completely reinvent his offense post-Wilson.

The biggest concern for the Seahawks is if they can get the most out of him. Wilson’s exit from Seattle was expedited by frustration with how the offense was being run, and inconsistency has been a problem the past few seasons. Picking a quarterback who went up against Liberty’s competition week in and week out could involve a lot of growing pains at the NFL level.

Willis to the Seahawks would create a fun team, if not a particularly good one. They’d still be the worst team in the NFC West, but Willis’ progression would be something to track for the season.

16 (or 19). New Orleans Saints

The Saints don’t seem sold on Jameis Winston. They signed him to a two-year deal this offseason after losing out on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, which had them twisting in the wind. New offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. is no stranger to the Sean Payton offense, but the Saints might want to stash Willis for a year or two to see how he plays out.

The Saints make sense as a landing spot for Willis, given their uncertainty about quarterback and the uncertainty about Willis’ previous competition. Having him in the league for a few years to get a feel for how he handles NFL defenses would be valuable for both sides.

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20. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers signed Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, “addressing’ their issue at quarterback in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. Even so, it was a two-year contract and Trubisky didn’t start last year. It’s hard to imagine him as a long-term answer rather than the vestige of a draft mishap teams can’t move on from. Willis would give the Steelers something to look forward to at quarterback, even if he may find himself starting a bit too early.

The talent on the Steelers roster is there surrounding the quarterback position. Najee Harris can ease the burden for Willis, but he’d be asked to do a lot early on. Even if the Steelers select Willis, it may not be the most favorable landing spot for his long-term career prospects.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady is back, but the Bucs can’t count on that long-term. A false retirement tends to precede a real one. Willis could be drafted as a potential Brady successor. While those aren’t small shoes to fill, the Buccaneers’ relative lack of pressing needs could let them draft for the future for Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich, if Leftwich stays on as offensive coordinator in the future.