After the franchise-altering trade of Russell Wilson last month, the Seahawks hold a top 10 draft pick for the first time since 2010. Who might the Seahawks target with that No. 9 pick? In the countdown to the April 28 draft, we’ll profile the prospects who seem to make the most sense for the Seahawks in the first round.
Today’s pick: Malik Willis
Career highlights: Accounted for 74 touchdowns in two seasons at Liberty, most in college football during that span; 27 of those were rushing touchdowns. He broke more tackles (89) on run plays than any other college player, running backs included, during the 2021 season, per Pro Football Focus.
Background: Began his college career at Auburn, then transferred to Liberty after losing out to Bo Nix for the Tigers’ starting job in 2019.
Why he might be a good fit for the Seahawks: Willis is generally seen as the quarterback with the highest upside in this draft class. Watch 30 seconds of his Liberty highlight reel and it’s easy to see why some are convinced he has the making of a future star in the NFL. His arm strength, elusiveness and big-play ability hint at a raw Russell Wilson.
And, yes, the Seahawks have a glaring need at the most important position on the field after trading Wilson to Denver. The most important question here is whether the Seahawks themselves are convinced of Willis’ potential. If they are, and if* he falls to them at No. 9, it should be a no-brainer for the Seahawks to take him right then and there.
*There are teams more desperate than the Seahawks for a QB. Some mock drafts have Detroit taking Willis at No. 2 overall; Carolina at No. 6 is another popular landing spot for Willis. Or maybe a team like Pittsburgh or New Orleans has fallen in love with Willis and is willing to trade into the top 10 to take him.
Why he might not be a good fit for the Seahawks: The hunch here is the Seahawks are targeting other premium positions in the first round — edge rusher, offensive tackle, cornerback. But they are, no doubt, doing their due diligence on all the top quarterbacks to keep their options open, and perhaps expecting (hoping?) they can snag a QB with one of their two second-round picks.
Drew Lock certainly plays into this decision too. While most on the outside viewed Lock as the throw-in in the Wilson blockbuster, the Seahawks publicly have thrown their full support behind Lock, and they sound genuinely open to having him begin the 2022 season as their starting QB. By all outward accounts, they like Lock more than any QB in this draft class. They also re-signed veteran Geno Smith last week with the idea that he’ll factor into the QB competition during training camp.
There are lingering questions about Willis too, in part because he played at a small college, and against inferior competition. Critics are quick to point out his shaky pocket presence and low completion percentage (61.1%) last season. Most agree he has a high ceiling, but he might also have the lowest floor of the top QBs in this class. As PFF notes in its draft guide: “Willis isn’t a Day 1 starter and needs to go to an offense built around his legs. Parking him behind an established quarterback in that mold to get acclimated to the NFL game would be his best bet.”
Prospect quote: “Somebody’s always gonna think you’re trash. That’s just the way the game goes. I’m not playing for their approval. … Everybody’s gonna have an opinion of you, so if you focus so hard on whatever everybody’s opinion is of you, you’re never gonna be happy. I want to be happy, so I’m not gonna think about it.” — Willis at NFL combine last month
Scout’s quote: “Willis is a flat-out stud who has Josh Allen type of vibes written all over him.” — ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky