Report: Falcons passed on Malik Willis for lack of signature moments at Liberty

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After shipping Matt Ryan off to Indianapolis for a third-rounder, the Falcons were an obvious landing spot for one of the quarterback prospects from the 2022 draft cycle. Many predicted they’d land Malik Willis in the backend of the first round or with one of their second-round picks.

However, Willis slid and Atlanta chose to go with Desmond Ridder in the third round. According to reports from Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith chose Ridder over the other prospects, Willis in particular, because of the Liberty product’s lack of signature moments in college.

Atlanta had its pick of quarterbacks entering the third round, with only Kenny Pickett off the board. Choosing a quarterback in the draft, even late on Day 2, requires a clear vision for everyone in the organization. And to convey that vision, Atlanta’s brain trust would need clear-cut examples of exactly what the Falcons would be getting, for ownership or otherwise. After asking around, I get the sense that Atlanta felt Malik Willis, despite immense talent, lacked the signature moments while at Liberty to sway such a decision, whereas¬†Desmond Ridder — the team’s pick at No. 74 — showcased a more complete body of work.

Fowler added that the Falcons thought the Cincinnati signal-caller “showcased a more complete body of work.”

“Plus, Ridder’s confidence and polish in the process helped,” Fowler included. “Coaches who interviewed him noted that the QB outlined his plans to unseat a veteran wherever he landed.”

Ridder’s career at Cincinnati rivals any in college football. He totaled 10,239 yards and 87 touchdowns while adding 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground. Willis’ two-year career at Liberty is much less impressive, totaling 5,107 yards and 47 touchdowns while running for 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns. The latter obviously possesses the skillset to be a franchise quarterback, but Ridder is better prepared to take over a team sooner rather than later.


Photographer: Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire



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