Name: Malik Willis
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 219
40-yard dash: Did not run
Bench: Did not bench
Vertical: Did not jump
Broad: Did not jump
3-cone: Did not run
20-yard shuttle: Did not run
View photos of NFL prospect Malik Willis.
How he fits: The Lions have a starting quarterback in veteran Jared Goff, but when we talk about the No. 2 overall pick, the most value at the top comes from selecting quarterbacks, players who can get after the quarterback and players who protect the quarterback.
Goff, 27, finished last season really strong for the Lions, and they have confidence he can pick up right where he left off with Ben Johnson as the new offensive coordinator in Detroit.
But the quarterback position is so valuable in this league that teams are always looking ahead and trying to solidify the position long term.
The Lions could opt to take a quarterback like Willis and have him sit and learn under Goff for a year, and then be in a position to push Goff and compete for the job in 2023. The Lions also don't currently have a backup who has guided a team to a win in the NFL. Tim Boyle is 0-3 and David Blough is 0-5.
Willis is an athletic signal caller with a strong arm, and he appears to have the highest ceiling of all of this year's quarterback prospects. He was really good at his Pro Day a couple weeks back. The Lions coached him at the Senior Bowl, so they know him better than most teams having spent that week with him.
Key observations: Willis was one of the most successful running quarterbacks in college football a season ago accumulating 878 yards and 13 touchdowns. He led all FBS quarterbacks in rushing grade (94.5), 10-plus yard runs (46) and broken tackles (90) in 2021, per Pro Football Focus stats.
Willis also had a FBS-leading 11 percent big-time throw rate last season, passing for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns.
But Willis was also sacked 51 times last season. According to research from ESPN, Willis' 8.8 percent career sack rate in college – sacks per drop back – would be the highest for an FBS quarterback selected in the first round since at least 2005.
What they had to say about him: "Willis is a thick, sturdy quarterback with elite arm strength and play-making ability," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said. "He has quick feet in his setup and he throws from a wide, firm base. He usually releases the ball out of a 3/4 arm slot and it jumps out of his hand. He generates incredible RPMs and flashes the ability to fit passes into tight windows.
"His accuracy is inconsistent. At times, he gets too wide with his feet and the ball sails to the perimeter. He has shown the ability to change ball speed, but he can improve on layer throws. He misses out on some completions because his throws are too flat. He's effective extending and creating against pressure (which he faced a ton of). He's outstanding on QB draws, powers and zone reads. He has a burst and pulls through tackles. Overall, Willis is still a work in progress, but he has the most upside of any QB in this class."
How he stacks up: Willis comes in at No. 27 on Jeremiah's latest list of the Top 50 prospects in this draft and the second best quarterback behind Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks lists Willis as the third best quarterback available in this draft behind Pickett and Mississippi's Matt Corral in the newest installment of his Top 5 players at each position.
Willis comes in at No. 21 in Scouts Inc.'s rankings of this year's draft prospects, and is the top quarterback, one spot ahead of Pickett. He comes in at No. 18 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board.
What he had to say: "In my opinion, I just think it's my willingness to learn," Willis said at this year's NFL Scouting Combine when asked why he thinks he's the best quarterback in this class. "My willingness to try to be great and the physical tools I've been blessed with. And my work ethic."