ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Liberty quarterback Malik Willis with the No. 20 overall pick in his latest mock draft.
Willis has been repeatedly tied to the Steelers after the team took a special interest in him at the Senior Bowl, and with the quarterback class seen as a down one, the second passer off the board may just be available when the Steelers draft.
Kiper only has Pitt’s Kenny Pickett going ahead of Willis, to the New Orleans Saints at No. 18, two spots before hand.
He projected Willis to the Steelers in his previous mock draft. He argues that even with Mitch Trubisky signing a contract with the Steelers, that the team would still be in the business of drafting a quarterback.
“Trubisky could be a bridge to Willis, who is raw but supremely talented…he is the most talented quarterback in the class.”
Willis began his collegiate career at Auburn, but burst onto the scene after transferring to Liberty in 2019. He passed for 5,107 yards and 47 touchdowns with 18 interceptions over two seasons as the Flames’ starter.
Willis’ best seasons was just this previous season, as he showed that he was one of the most successful rushing quarterbacks at the college level, accumulating 878 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not only was Willis an adept runner, he also passed for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns last season with the Flames. The Steelers’ staff got a close look at Willis at the 2022 Senior Bowl.
Kiper argues that Willis will likely compete for the starting job, but that he won’t be under pressure to start the first week of the season.
“Willis could compete with Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins in training camp, but he wouldn’t be under immediate pressure to start in Week 1. That would be crucial for him.”
He also says that if the Steelers chose not to go for a quarterback, that they have areas in their secondary and offensive line that need to be attended to.