Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times has ten things he’d like to say about the Bears:
8. Malik Willis Watch: The former Auburn backup quarterback (a nephew of former Bears linebacker James Anderson) completed 13 of 32 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for 44 yards in Liberty’s 15-14 loss to North Carolina State. Willis previously had thrown four touchdowns passes without an interception in victories over Syracuse and Virginia Tech.
Potash has been highlighting Malik Willis every week in this 1st-and-10 column. Like the rest of us, he obviously is looking for potential gems in the draft that might fall low enough for the Bears to take. So my curiosity was piqued.
Potash is a veteran reporter who has been around the block. Though I listen to their pod-cast on my walk into work, I usually pick and choose the articles I read from the Sun-Times depending on how much time I have in the morning. But I nearly always read the things that Potash writes. And I usually pay attention to what he has to say. I don’t always agree. But I always pay attention.
Willis is listed at 6’1″ for Liberty. That’s a tad bit short for the SEC and, needless to say, for the pros. But pro scouts haven’t paid as much attention to height as they used to with the success of quarterbacks like Russell Wilson. That’s particularly true for guys like Willis, who, like Wilson, is a dual threat quarterback in the mold of a Kyler Murray.
In nine games, Willis has just under a 68 percent completion rate this year with 15 passing touchdowns, one interception, and nine rushing touchdowns. He has 700 rushing yards.
Willis is a winner, too. The loss to North Carolina State was the first of the year for the Flames, who are now 8-1.
So why would he be available for the Bears? Well, Liberty isn’t exactly a team that plays a lot of Power Five competition. Willis also wasn’t considered to have a particularly strong arm just coming out of high school, let alone college. And worst of all Willis is just a one year starter. That would be a tough pick for a team that just got burned taking Mitch Trubisky, who the Bears drafted under similar circumstances.
Every once is a while Liberty pops up on ESPN. I’ll probably stop changing the channel now every time I see them and start paying attention.
Who knows? GM Ryan Pace obviously is out of tune with the rest of the NFL in that he seems to believe that every quarterback he likes is being over drafted. He also obviously drafts more for immediate need than he does with an eye towards the future at the most important position in sports. That is, of course, in contrast to, say the Green Bay Packers who compete every year by making the position a priority regardless of need.
But precisely because of this past history, Pace has put himself into a position of desperation this year. He’ll have to take a quarterback and the rest of the league will know that he has to. Willis could be the one he’s forced to choose. We’ll see.