Report: Malik Willis is on the Falcons radar

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The league is buzzing with the NFL draft set to kick off in a little over 24 hours. Last minute rumors have dominated national headlines, but the uncertainty surrounding where prospects will end up is the most exciting part.

The Falcons sit in an interesting position with the No. 8 pick, a true best player available situation. Depending on how the first seven selections shake out, Atlanta could come away with one of several different prospects — Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, Jermaine Johnson II, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Derek Stingely Jr., Sauce Gardner, Kyle Hamilton, etc. 

Quarterback is undoubtedly in play too. After trading Matt Ryan to the Colts for a measly third-rounder, the Falcons quickly signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year pact. Even though he’s nothing more than the team’s stopgap, Mariota will be the starter regardless of which prospect lands in Atlanta. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith spoke to the media on Tuesday, stating they’d like to come away from the four-day event with a signal caller. However, that doesn’t exactly mean their first round pick will be the selection used.

One prospect that has been floated in several mock drafts is Malik Willis, who has already met with the Falcons. Even though I don’t believe Willis is in the cards for Atlanta at No. 8, some notable reporters do. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN stated the Liberty product is on the Falcons’ radar. I think it’s more likely they target him by trading back into the first round if possible but not where they currently stand. Willis is the top signal caller on Jake’s quarterback big board:

Originally, I had Malik Willis fourth and in the “Yeah, But” category. However, when evaluating these guys, his traits are the only ones I truly get excited about. I had very high hopes for Willis going into 2021; in fact, I thought he would be the first overall pick in the draft. The issues with Willis, for me, stem from his processing. He has an incredible arm and escapability outside of the pocket, but he makes some of the worst (and best) throws out of anyone in this class. Willis needs a lot of time to develop; he is not a guy who I would start from day one. I’m also concerned that he actually regressed this season, albeit against tougher competition. His footwork and eyes are very poor, but if a coach can put the pieces together, he will be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL — much less in this draft class.

Willis performed admirably in a Liberty offense that did little favors for their quarterback, which resulted in a lot of tuck-and-run plays. “The learning curve will be steep for him,” the NFC exec told Fowler. “But the traits are impressive, and the arm strength is really good.”

Photographer: Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire

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