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Friday open thread: What is the earliest the Lions should draft Malik Willis?

Pick your favorite scenario in our poll.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest hot button topic in the Detroit Lions draft community: Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.

Willis has been the talk of Mobile, as everyone seems to have an opinion about the dynamic quarterback, his future in the NFL, and where he should be selected. ESPN’s Todd McShay has gushed over him on Senior Bowl broadcasts, touting him as his QB1 in this draft. Others like him slightly less than Kenny Pickett, who is more NFL ready, while acknowledging Willis could have the higher ceiling.

The Lions staff has also been impressed with Willis. Coaches have talked about how well he has done absorbing the playbook, while also adapting to new concepts he never ran in college.

During a simple progression play, Willis efficiently worked through his reads and made the proper choice of where to go with the ball—his fourth (or fifth?) option in the flat. Following the play, Lions’ quarterback coach Mark Brunell was so visibly excited about how the play was executed that it prompted questions about the play from the local media.

“Well, it was a new concept (for him),” Brunell explained. “He’s basically working left to right, he’s got four guys in the progression, and he went from one, two, three, then four — actually, there’s five guys in the route. He’s looking to his left, doesn’t have it, and just progresses to his right and gets to the last guy in the progression. For a young quarterback, to have that play and get through that read and throw a nice ball on a check down on that wide route, I was really impressed with that. It was pretty sharp and it was something he had never done before. I’d credit the coaching, but it was probably more Malik than anything else.”

Lions head coach Dan Campbell also talked him up during his presser at the Senior Bowl:

This extra attention from Lions’ coaches, as well as Willis’ solid performances in practices, has raised a lot interest in the Lions community, which brings us to today’s question of the day:

What is the earliest the Lions should draft Malik Willis?

There is no consensus of who is the best quarterback in this draft class, and it appears that several teams could have a different player at their QB1 spot. For this exercise, let’s assume the Lions have Willis at QB1 and run through some scenarios.

Scenario No. 1: Take him at No. 2

Even if Willis is the top quarterback on the Lions board, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be perceived as a top-two talent in this class. As we have seen this week at the Senior Bowl, he easily has the strongest arm at the event, learns quickly, pressure is commonplace for Willis and doesn’t phase him, but his accuracy issues still exist and are a real concern for his ability to play immediately in the NFL.

I agree with the school of thought that if you fall in love with a quarterback and believe that he could be a franchise player—even down the road—you should take him when you have the opportunity.

For me, he’s just not at this level.

Scenario No. 2: Trade up to take him in the middle of the first round

There are several teams that will likely have Willis as their preferred quarterback choice in this draft, and one in particular, hasn’t been shy about keeping it a secret.

The Steelers hold the No. 20 pick in the draft, so if the Lions were to take this approach, they would need to trade up to No. 19 (at a minimum) to acquire him.

So, what would that look like? I use a few different draft trade charts to get multiple looks at what types of trades may be realistic. Bottom line with all of them, the Lions would likely have to give up picks No. 32 (first round), No. 66 (third round), and probably a Day 3 pick, likely at least a fifth-round pick.

Scenario No. 3: Stand pat at pick No. 31/32 or No. 34 and hope he falls

If Detroit needed to choose between No. 31/32 and 34, I really think the Lions would opt to grab him at No. 31/32 in order to get the fifth-year option that comes with being a first-round pick. But would they grab him there? Well, in this exercise, with him being QB1, I absolutely believe they would. Outside of this exercise, in real life, I still think he’d be a viable option.

But would he be there? That’s the real question because it’s really hard to say at this point, especially with different teams all likely ranking their quarterback boards differently. If I had to guess, I’d say he would be gone. Then again, I thought the same thing about Lamar Jackson, and that’s exactly where he went.

My answer: I’d take option No. 3 and wait

It’s not the sexy choice, and it definitely flies in the face of the hype right now, but he still needs to prove to me that he can be an NFL starter. Unfortunately, a lot of what it takes to prove that will happen behind closed doors in meetings with teams. Sure, we will get to see him perform at the NFL Combine—and he should absolutely do everything in Indianapolis—but his football intelligence and ability to prove himself as an intelligent leader after working in a basic college offense is what could lock him into being picked in the first round.

Agree? Disagree? Vote in the poll and sound off in the comments.


What is the earliest the Lions should draft Malik Willis?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Scenario No. 1: Take him at No. 2
    (182 votes)
  • 16%
    Scenario No. 2: Trade up to take him in the middle of the first round
    (436 votes)
  • 77%
    Scenario No. 3: Stand pat at pick No. 31/32 or No. 34 and hope he falls
    (2075 votes)
2693 votes total Vote Now