It sounds like the interest in Malik Willis was drawing interest from surprising places as he fell in the NFL Draft.
One NFL Draft trope that you can always bet on being a thing each year is pundits gushing over a prospect who inevitably falls as the selections start rolling in. Aaron Rodgers will perhaps forever be the most famous example of this and each year someone is pegged as the next guy to unfairly plummet.
This year that guy was Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, and his free fall was so intense that many are now questioning some of the initial hype around his draft stock. The Tennessee Titans grabbed him in the fifth round, despite mock drafts across the internet having him as a first round selection.
The explanation seems to be that this year’s quarterback class not being strong, in combination with fewer teams than normal looking for signal callers, contributed not only to Willis falling but only one quarterback being selected before the second day of the draft.
Dallas Cowboys considered Malik Willis during NFL Draft
According to The Athletic, Willis was drawing interest not only from teams looking for a franchise centerpiece but also among teams that had established quarterback situations.
The logic, as appears to be the case with the Dallas Cowboys, was that Willis would provide a valuable trade chip down the road or a low-risk replacement should anything go off the rails with the current starter.
As the third round moved along, Mulugheta mentioned to the group that Willis’ suitors should extend beyond the QB-needy teams because he had become the best prospect on the board at any position. Teams with established starters could groom him as a long-term replacement or even a future trade chip. It sounded like the Cowboys had an interest in that scenario.
Had the Cowboys drafted him, Willis obviously wasn’t going to unseat Dak Prescott as the team’s starter. There doesn’t appear to be a Matt Flynn-Russell Wilson situation in the league right now that Willis could have fallen into, although the logic of a team with an uncertain long-term future taking a flier on him in the fifth round seems like the sort of thing that should have been more heavily considered.
That Titans aren’t quite that Flynn-Wilson situation, but it’s clear that Ryann Tannehill is not a Mahomesian pillar of Tennessee’s future.
One team that surprisingly passed on Willis was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their present is so tightly tied to Tom Brady that the mortgaged future seems to be an afterthought in the quest for another Super Bowl. Perhaps the Bucs front office is more intrigued by upcoming quarterback classes — or Kyle Trask just has that many fans in the building — but a fifth-round pick on a potential successor for Brady seems like a gamble worth taking.
That’s apparently what the Cowboys were thinking, and it should come as no surprise to fans in Dallas that Jerry Jones was itching to use a pick on a quarterback like Willis. Lest we forget, this is the same guy who needed to be held back from drafting Johnny Manziel. and the value he’d have gotten on Willis was clearly something that was being considered.