Pre-Draft Fantasy Prospect
Grade* (out of 50): 39.0
* - How well does his skill set carry over
to the fantasy game? For quarterbacks, a player needs to be a
realistic threat for 4,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards
to be a candidate for a perfect grade. Positional scarcity at
the pro level is also a part of the equation.
Willis might as well be Frankenstein right before the bolt of
lightning strikes: all the physical tools are there for the Atlanta
native to be a monster … he just needs the doctor to make
sure the lab is set up correctly. He boasts top-notch (if not elite)
arm strength. He is an exceptional runner who regularly sheds tackles
and often creates something out of nothing. (He broke 89 tackles
as a runner last season, more than any other player in college football
- including running backs.) Willis also showed a surprising amount
of ability to work through his progressions when he felt comfortable
in the pocket on his 2021 film. Pro Football Focus charted him with
a "big-time throw rate" (loosely defined as a pass with
excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down
the field and/or into a tighter window) of 10.7 percent last season
- tops in college football. By all accounts, he is also a very mature
individual who possesses strong leadership traits and will not shrink
in the spotlight. (Of particular note, he has acknowledged how he
essentially needed the transfer from Auburn to make him realize
how important football is to him.) He is built to last physically
and showed plenty of toughness in 2021 as well, playing every game
despite running the ball 197 times and taking 51 sacks.
Liberty will likely always be overmatched when it takes on the
big boys in college football, but the first of many concerns with
Willis was how poorly he performed against the best teams on the
Flames' schedule over his two seasons at the school. In arguably
his three most challenging games at Liberty (Coastal Carolina, NC
State and Ole Miss), Willis finished a combined 48-of-86 (55.8 percent)
for 565 yards, two touchdowns and eight interceptions. (He did run
for 252 yards and five scores, however.) It was in some of those
contests that his decision-making really suffered, although some
of the blame for that has to go on Liberty's overmatched offensive
line and receivers. That doesn't excuse his performances in other
games, such as throwing three picks each against Middle Tennessee
and Louisiana Monroe or taking a total of 18 sacks against Army,
Louisiana and North Texas. While his offensive line often did him
no favors by repeatedly letting a defensive end go unblocked on
a pass play, Willis also hurt himself by holding the ball too long
and showing a concerning lack of awareness of pass-rush pressure.
Willis knows he has a fastball but has not yet learned how to put
touch on his short and intermediate throws more consistently. In
those same areas of the field, he tends to wait for his receiver
to come open before throwing (rarely works in the NFL) and puts
his receivers in danger over the middle of the field too often.
Willis needs to tighten up some of his fundamentals that should
help him be more consistently accurate (footwork, dropping his elbow,
etc.). He also would do well to embrace his check-down receiver
more often as opposed to go big-play hunting.
At his best, Willis will occasionally look like Deshaun Watson.
At his worst, he plays a lot like Johnny Manziel. The question becomes
how much of his playground-style ball was a function of him trying
to carry his team versus being able to make good football decisions.
Perhaps the easiest way to sum Willis up is that his highs are incredibly
high and his lows are incredibly low. There is no question he needs
AT LEAST one more year of development and maybe two - he did not
start playing football until high school and threw a total of 14
passes over his first two seasons at Auburn before transferring
- although there were noticeable areas of improvement in his game
from 2020 to 2021. While he is certainly a blue-chip talent, he
is far from a blue-chip prospect. A good quarterback coach and scheme
that utilizes his running ability/strong arm could have a Pro Bowler
on their hands sometime around 2025. Conversely, if Willis lands
with a team that does not have at least one of those things working
in its favor, he may not have to worry about his fifth-year option
(in the likely event he goes in the first round) being exercised.
Drafting Willis high later this month is not only a bet on a coaching
staff to develop a raw passer quickly, but a significantly bigger
risk than the one the 49ers made with Trey Lance last year. (Remember
Lance sat for most of his rookie year despite being more developed
as a passer and making his own line calls at North Dakota State).
the top ten picks of the NFL Draft for a chance to win FFToday prizes.
Enter our NFL Draft Contest
now. Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured
in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He
is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst
on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM’s
“Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy
Sports Writers Association.