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Titans take a worthy gamble on Liberty QB Malik Willis

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans made a sizable splash with their final of three selections in the second-and-third-round of Friday’s 2022 NFL Draft. After selecting former Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary and former Ohio State offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere earlier in the day, General Manager Jon Robinson shocked the Titans fan base by drafting Liberty quarterback Malik Willis in the third round. The Titans actually parted with a fifth-round selection in order to move up to No. 86 overall from No. 90 in order to guarantee they could secure Willis’ services.

Willis was largely considered to be the greatest quarterback in the class by many evaluators due to the ceiling he possesses. Willis was ultimately the third quarterback off the board, following Pittsburgh’s selection of Kenny Pickett in the first round, and Atlanta’s selection of Desmond Ridder just 12 picks earlier than Willis (also in the third round). Both Ridder and Willis lasted considerably longer than anybody expected them to, and it’s somewhat interesting that Arthur Smith and the Falcons preferred Ridder over Willis.

For a Titans team that currently finds itself in quarterback purgatory, selecting Willis in the third round qualifies as a worthy gamble. On tape, Willis is an electric thrower of the football. His raw athletic tools could allow him to make the off-script plays today’s pass-happy offenses are often starved for. He’s extremely elusive and can use his legs to escape the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. Willis’ quick-twitch movements often alluded defenders in the pocket. He’s an outstanding athlete for the position. Willis’ arm talent electrified onlookers at Liberty’s Pro Day. His rare arm talent was on display, and Tennessee’s quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara was in attendance.

Willis isn’t a pro-ready prospect. Liberty’s offense contained simplistic reads, played against lower-level competition, and there are some technical issues to work out, too. Willis’ footwork and pocket movement have been described as erratic. Sitting on the bench for a season or two will serve Willis well. Expectations often impact the outcome of a quarterback prospect, and Willis has landed in an ideal situation in Tennessee given his current form. Ryan Tannehill is undeniably the starting quarterback for the 2022 campaign. Willis can sit-and-learn behind Tannehill while working alongside O’Hara and new Passing Game Coordinator Tim Kelly. It’s worth noting O’Hara and Kelly did excellent work helping develop Deshaun Watson in Houston.

The 2022 campaign could be Tannehill’s last in Tennessee based on his contract situation and less-than-ideal play throughout 2021. The Titans needed to find a quarterback of the future, either this offseason or next. Willis is far from a sure thing, but it’s plausible to hope Robinson just drafted Tennessee’s quarterback of the future in the third round.

All of a sudden, we can’t wait for the preseason. That’s where Willis should see the majority of his action in 2022. Stay tuned to MCM.