As we make our way to the final stretch towards the 2022 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions are doing their homework on the most important position in football. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Lions are hosting quarterback Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett for pre-draft visits this week.
Willis’ addition is interesting, because the Lions got to know him extensively when they were coaching the Senior Bowl a couple of months ago. Since then, the Lions have publicly praised the Liberty quarterback several times.
“Malik, he’s explosive now,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said a couple of weeks ago. “This guy’s an explosive athlete, and he’ll learn to play the quarterback position, but he’s explosive.”
But as Campbell alluded to in that quote, Willis’ game could use some development—he still needs to “learn to play the quarterback position,” as Campbell put it. At Liberty, he ran a fairly basic offense, and running through his progressions will be an aspect of his game that will be focused upon at the next level.
In fact, we saw Lions coaches specifically work on that with Willis down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. After a particular set of progressions—when Willis specifically chose to check down—Lions quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell was visibly excited.
“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,” Brunell explained the next day. “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.”
The big question for the Lions is whether they’d consider Willis with the second overall pick. With his athletic traits—the speed to be a dual-threat quarterback and the arm strength to make any throw at the next level—he likely won’t make it long in the draft later this month. Detroit’s continued interest in Willis certainly seems to suggest that he is in consideration for the Lions, but you can never be too sure this time of year.