This is the game most Detroit Lions fans have been waiting for.
This Saturday’s watch list of college football (November 6) will feature two of the top NFL draft-eligible quarterbacks in this upcoming cycle playing in the same game: Mississippi’s Matt Corral and Liberty’s Malik Willis.
With quarterback a need and the Lions heading towards a top-10 pick—currently slated for the No. 1 overall pick—you better believe Lions scouts will be keeping their eyes on this game.
Here are the featured games on this week’s watchlist include:
- Liberty at Ole Miss (16) at 12:00 p.m. ET on SECN
- Michigan State (3) at Purdue at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
- Indiana at Michigan (7) at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX
- San Jose State at Nevada at 10:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2
If you’re interested in going back and looking at the previous Saturday watchlists to revisit some of the players profiled, you can find those links here:
- Pre-season Quarterback watchlist
- Week 1, September 4
- Week 2, September 11
- Week 3, September 18
- Week 4, September 25
- Week 5, October 2
- Week 6, October 9 — All linebackers edition
- Week 7, October 16
- Week 8, October 23
- Week 9, October 30 — Every prospect from Michigan and Michigan State
Alright, let’s get to this week’s profiles.
Liberty at Ole Miss (16) at 12:00 p.m. ET on SECN
When it’s all said and done, these may be the best two quarterbacks in this draft cycle.
Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty (Senior)
6-foot-0, 218 pounds
It’s been an up and down season for Willis. On one hand, he flashes rare athleticism for the position and often looks unstoppable, putting up 21 passing and nine rushing touchdowns on the season. On the other hand, he had a rough two-game stretch where he threw six interceptions (his only of the season), three against Middle Tennessee State, and three again Lousiana-Monroe—which was not a great look.
Willis has a cannon for an arm and he’s not scared to let it rip. When he enters the NFL, his arm strength will instantly be in the top half of the league. If you are already exhausted with check-downs, Willis will get your blood pumping. With that arm strength comes deep shots and he’s willing to put throws with touch on the sidelines or push it down the seam.
Malik Willis has a hose. pic.twitter.com/xledvm70Tj— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) October 30, 2021
His accuracy needs consistency, and he needs to quicken up his processing speed between his reads (when he has them), but these were similar knocks on Justin Fields last year and are some things NFL coaches will believe are correctable. The big difference is scheme, as Liberty’s offense will often only give him one read and if it’s not there, he will be asked to earn yards with his feet.
His size-speed combo is running back-esque and he uses his gifts on designed quarterback runs and when the protection breaks down—though it’s worth noting that he’s typically looking to pass first and run second. Playing lesser talented opponents, and when the scheme calls for it, Willis will pull the ball down and run because it’s so easy for him to gain an advantage. Getting more comfortable sticking it out in the pocket will be an area NFL teams will want him to improve. Although, he can also make difficult throws on the run, which gives him another rare element to his game and creative coaches will embrace that.
Future Lions QB Malik Willis pic.twitter.com/ilvV3geoup— Brett Whitefield (@BGWhitefield) October 9, 2021
While his arm talent is very appealing, it’s his dynamic running skills and play-making ability that make Willis so unique. Slippery in the backfield and able to get skinny in traffic, he is incredibly difficult to get hands on. Even when defenses have contain, he has the vision to find the hole in front of him and glide through for positive yards. As a designed runner, he has the patience to set up his blocks and the acceleration to hit daylight with speed.
On the road versus an SEC opponent this week, this is Willis’ statement game of the season, for better or for worse.
Matt Corral, Quarterback, Mississippi (Redshirt Junior)
6-foot-1, 200 pounds
While Willis will have an opportunity to raise his draft stock, Corral’s opportunity for praise will be minimal. He will be expected to dice up Liberty’s defense, and he should do just that, especially knowing that there will be plenty of scout's eyes on him.
Stylistically, Corral has a lot of similar traits to Willis. He’s got an above-average NFL arm, has quick feet, and can keep plays alive with them. He operates out of a one-read offense and can be hesitant to make a throw before he sees it’s open. He will also work through some accuracy issues, but he is willing, capable, and shows the confidence to make deep shots all over the field.
MATT CORRAL PLAYS FOOTBALL TONIGHT— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 6, 2021
There are also some differences between the pair. Corral doesn’t have the elite running option to his game but he is a capable runner. What really stands out though if how he uses his feet in the pocket. There is virtually no lag between him processing what he sees and getting his feet into position. His lower body movement is reminiscent of a shortstop in baseball, with quick resets to always put his body in the proper spot to make a throw with excellent technique. His footwork can help mask breakdowns in protection, as he slides away from pressure. And, because he is always keeping his eyes downfield, he is consistently in position to make a throw.
This is high level stuff from Matt Corral. You can always tell a poised QB by his feet. He understands the answers to this concept even though his primary read/option is covered. His feet look like the long hand on an analog clock.— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) September 7, 2021
Great stuff. pic.twitter.com/tB5ocg295q
Additionally, Corral has a compact release when throwing the ball, which comes in handy at Ole Miss, as the scheme calls for rapid movement and quick throws. But don’t be mistaken, while the scheme pushes for quick decisions, Corral is also asked to throw downfield and keep defenses honest. Because he has such a strong arm and the confidence he can make any throw, you will occasionally see a gunslinger mentality in Corral where he will force a throw he believes he can make (think early Matthew Stafford years).
ELITE connection between Matt Corral and Dontario Drummond pic.twitter.com/8T0B1sqEB1— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 7, 2021
Corral is a mix of new and old age quarterback play. He does most of his damage from the pocket but has the athleticism to escape and gain positive yardage. He is very confident in his skill set and believes he is capable of making any throw on the field—which is true more often than not.
Michigan State (3) at Purdue at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
I previewed Michigan State in detail last week ahead of the matchup with Michigan, and I don't want to get too repetitive, so I’ll shift the focus to the Purdue defense, who will have the daunting task of trying to slow down Heisman hopeful RB Kenneth Walker III.
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue (Junior)
6-foot-4 1/2, 275 pounds
Karlaftis burst onto the scene as a freshman (2019) with 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. He missed most of 2020 for a variety of reasons but has returned to form this season. An oversized pass rusher, he primarily wins with power but has an impressive toolbox that he brings with him when attacking the offensive tackle.
Bull Snatch (push/pull) by George Karlaftis III@TheGK3 bull rushes, wins with inside hand placement & then violently snatches the blocker. A great move for any power rusher who especially excels at the bull rush #BoilerUp #PassRush pic.twitter.com/POvNvKTT0l— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) October 28, 2019
Despite his size and power, one of the biggest question marks resides in his run defense. He’ll have a chance to show his value trying to stop Walker, and if he can put on a solid performance he may lock up Top-15 draft value.
Indiana at Michigan (7) at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX
As I mentioned before, I profiled Michigan in detail last week. But, I neglected to add a redshirt sophomore because he is in his first year as a starter and extremely raw, but he balled out against the Spartans and has put himself on the map as a legitimate draft prospect in this years cycle.
David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan (Redshirt Sophomore)
6-foot-5, 250 pounds
A native of Nigerian (so you know the Lions are interested) Ojabo didn’t start playing football until 2017 (!) but showed enough raw talent that he was a scholarship freshman at Michigan just two short years later. This speaks to his ceiling, but also how much he still is still learning about the game.
As a freshman in 2019, he redshirted but impressed enough to earn Michigan’s defensive scout team player of the year. Michigan only played six games in 2020 and while Ojabo only played defense in three of those contests, he flashed as a pass-rushing linebacker. This season, with Michigan switching to a Baltimore Ravens-style defense, it set up perfectly for Ojabo’s skill set and he earned a starting role.
Michigan has just turned him loose:
Aidan Hutchinson receives a lot of the notoriety (rightfully so), but #Michigan EDGE/OLB hybrid David Ojabo (6050, 250, rSO) has really hit his stride over the past four games (6.0 sacks, 2 FFs) for the Wolverines defense. pic.twitter.com/FNSxLKXEBI— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) November 3, 2021
And athletically, he does stuff players his size shouldn't be able to do:
That’s first-round athleticism with UDFA experience level, but NFL teams draft EDGE rushers based on athletic upside—and he has that in spades. Ojabo reminds me quite a bit of Jayson Oweh, who went 31st in last year's draft cycle and was selected by... of course... the Baltimore Ravens.
Ty Fryfogle, Wide receiver, Indiana (Senior)
6-foot-1 1/2, 205 pounds
Fryfogle had a monster 2020, putting up 200+ receiving yard games against Ohio State and Michigan State but he elected to return to Indiana as a “super senior” and take advantage of the extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA due to COVID-19.
He is a big-bodied possession receiver who leans on his physicality over athleticism. While he seems destined to be a Day 3 selection, he has experience playing inside and out, is a willing run blocker, and projects to be a valuable special teams contributor at the next level.
San Jose State at Nevada at 10:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2
Carson Strong, Quarterback, Nevada (Redshirt Junior)
6-foot-4, 212 pounds
The quarterback class is still shaking out, but Strong is an intriguing prospect that could hear his name called in the first round. I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of film study on Strong—Nevada isn’t on my weekly watch list due to their time slot—but Mark Schofield of Touchdown Wire is one of the best quarterback evaluators I know and he recently did a 14-minute video film break down on the quarterback.
“Nevada quarterback Carson Strong has played himself into the upper-tier QB discussion for the 2022 NFL draft, thanks to his production as well as what he offers from an arm talent perspective,” Schofield wrote.
From what I’ve seen, Strong is a pocket passer who possesses an NFL deep ball, can fit it in tight windows, and can throw with touch. He’s not very mobile but he can slide around the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. The one thing that could be detrimental to his draft stock is his medical checks, as NFL teams have reportedly flagged a knee injury as a potential obstacle.
Also on Nevada’s offense is another trio of draftable players including WR Romeo Doubs (Senior, 6-foot-2, 201 pounds), TE Cole Turner (Senior, 6-foot-6, 236 pounds), and RT/G Aaron Frost (Senior, 6-foot-4 1/2, 310 pounds).