The Seattle Seahawks need a quarterback. No offense to Drew Lock, but nobody (not even Lock) could think that this team would be wise to head into the season without adding some competition at the most important position on the field. And a common assumption is that Seattle will do this with the ninth pick in the draft. But what if the QB they fancy isn’t around by the penultimate pick of the top 10? In fact, I would venture to guess that this is essentially a certainty, assuming that the team has a mild infatuation with Malik Willis — and which quarterback-needy team isn’t a little bit obsessed with the playmaker from Liberty right now? Of course, there are other signal callers in the draft, but the general consensus seems to be that he is the player with the right combination of raw talent and upside to justify landing inside the top ten.
Indeed, since Malik Willis’s pro day, his name has become increasingly connected to the Carolina Panthers, who currently hold the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Per Joe Person of the Athletic:
“The Panthers had a large contingent at Willis’ pro day and had to be impressed with his arm strength and the way his teammates responded to him. It was part of Carolina’s quarterback pro day circuit that also included stops at Pittsburgh and Mississippi to watch Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral, respectively. The Panthers’ very public interest in quarterbacks almost feels too over the top and could be smoke to get someone to trade up in front of them (potentially pushing Ekwonu or Neal down) or to trade with them, which would allow the Panthers to recoup some draft capital and still potentially get a tackle like Trevor Penning or Tyler Smith.”
Personally, I think this is the most accurate and likely scenario that will play out on draft night; Malik Willis is going go in the Top Ten, and possibly even the Top Five. Whether the Panthers are leveraging their draft capital or simply interested in the talented signal caller, I find it hard to believe that he wont be creeping up draft boards over the next three weeks. And this isn’t the least bit surprising, because this is the same pattern we see every year; the need for passers will always be greater than the number of available starting-quality QBs in the league. And recent history supports this theory; take a look at this snippet from Benjamin Robinson’s pre-Free Agency mock draft for Football Outsiders in 2021;
8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
“I want to be clear that I personally have a lot of questions about Trey Lance’s evaluation as a quarterback prospect. However, one question I don’t have is that Lance is likely to be a top-10 draft pick. In fact, if we end up with the type of trade activity I’m hoping we’ll have, Lance could be a top-five pick.”
Football Outsiders remained fairly consistent in their projection of Trey Lance, but this was primarily because they had Mac Jones going to the Niners with the third overall pick and Justin Fields landing with the Atlanta Falcons one pick later. Of course, this isn’t what ended up happening, as the former fell to the New England Patriots at pick 15, and the latter ended up landing just outside of the top 10. But interestingly, even creeping into the top half of the draft was a noticeable leap for Mac Jones from where he was once projected; Dane Brugler of the Athletic had him all the way down at 28th, which would have sent him to the NFC South to join the New Orleans Saints. So consider me unconvinced that this team is going to have their pick of the top signal callers in this draft if they stay put. H*ck — they may not even have a chance to draft one of the top two guys where they are at. Maybe I am wrong — we have seen talented-but-unproven passers fall in the draft, especially if they have mediocre combine or Pro Day results. But you know who didn’t have a mediocre pro day? This guy.
Malik Willis' arm strength is no joke. @malikwillis— NFL (@NFL) March 22, 2022
: @LibertyFootball Pro Day on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/shHKM2loyW
And the fact of the matter is this; being able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile in workout clothes wont get you any closer to a Super Bowl than it will to landing the unenviable label of a “former first round pick” on your way to a career in broadcasting. But it may help a player like Willis climb the draft board and earn a few extra bucks in the process. And he isn’t the only passer to have a strong Pro Day. Former Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder did this:
Desmond Ridder may have bested Malik Willis’ distance on “The Pro Day Throw” @GoBearcatsFB #ProDay pic.twitter.com/wvF2Tamvz4— Jets Fans United (@JetsFans_United) March 24, 2022
The TL;DR (or I guess TL;DWatch) of the above is the simple fact that QBs get over-valued and over-drafted because the odds of finding a Super Bowl winning franchise player is tantamount to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Generational talents like Andrew Luck have appeared and retired with impressive numbers but no rings, and we still have no idea what teams have in the 2021 class. So excuse me if I firmly believe that at least two quarterbacks will get picked in the top 10, even if neither of them represents anything more than a glimmer of hope for an ailing franchise. I haven’t heard anybody refer to any member of this quarterback class as a “generational talent,” but then again... nobody called Russell Wilson a generational talent, even though he clearly is/was/will-always-be. Lamar Jackson slipped all the way down to 32, where the Baltimore Ravens traded up to make him the final pick of the first round in 2018. And lest we forget the omnipresent face of Patrick Mahomes, who was selected with the ninth overall pick one year earlier in 2017, even after the league tried to do this to him:
Just an annual reminder that https://t.co/OocrBGmTzr said Patrick Mahomes NFL comp was Jay Cutler. pic.twitter.com/MFCup6rcVU— Stan "the Soy Boy" Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) April 4, 2022
So where does this leave the Seattle front office? I absolutely hope from the core of my being that this team doesn’t do something stupid like package a bunch of picks together to move up any further — akin to what the San Francisco 49ers did last season to jump up and select Trey Lance. No disrespect to the NDSU standout, but our Bay Area brethren already had a starting-capable QB in Jimmy Garoppolo, so the fact that he remains largely an unknown at this point isn’t the end of the world for their franchise; however, the Seattle Seahawks don’t have a proven starter on their roster right now, and unless they really do end up pulling a move for somebody like Baker Mayfield, then they likely won’t at the start of the season, either. So this is a long way of getting to this conclusion: YES, I think that the Seahawks should draft a quarterback on Day 1. No, I do not believe it will be Malik Willis, and not because they don’t like him.
Feel free to tell me I’m wrong, and I would absolutely love to be. If you haven’t already watched the Malik Willis episode of Field Gulls own Sam’s Film Room, then I recommend you do so right now, because that guy would be the best kind of legit in a Seattle uniform, as long as they don’t have to make yet another franchise-sinking trade to have a shot at selecting him. But assuming that the first theory holds true, and that he ends up getting picked well before the Hawks are on the clocks, and assuming that the team is destined to pick its first top 10 QB since Rick Mirer... who should they select? Of the remaining passers who are receiving attention — Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corrall, or anybody else I am leaving off — who would you most like to see the front office target on that fateful Thursday that draws nearer by the hour?