You’re probably all mocked out at this point. But if you aren’t, here’s one more to put on your plate. Bucky Brooks has released his fourth mock draft and has the Pittsburgh Steelers taking a conventional route, selecting Liberty QB Malik Willis with the 20th overall pick.
In his explanation, Brooks writes:
“The ultra-athletic playmaker would enable offensive coordinator Matt Canada to utilize some of the creative concepts he brought with him from the collegiate level.”
Determining who the Steelers like and the order in which they like them is difficult to do. But the general consensus is Willis is the team’s #1 QB on the board and would be hard for the team to pass on if he slips to #20. Whether or not that happens is an open question, and will be one of the biggest things to watch for on draft night.
Willis would be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. He’s someone who needs to sit his rookie year as a raw but “toolsy” passer. The Steelers would afford him that opportunity. They have two veterans in Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, meaning it would take a lot to force Willis on the field (of course, that’s what happened to Ben Roethlisberger in 2004). The Steelers offer a healthy and stable organization that won’t have turnover with its head coach and have a rolodex of coaches and coordinators to mold Willis’ game. QBs Coach Mike Sullivan is an excellent teacher, and the Steelers made the practical move to add an assistant in David Corley.
By no means would that guarantee Willis’ success. But he wouldn’t be at risk for the pitfalls a lot of quarterbacks fall into. System, scheme, and culture can be as defining to a player’s career arc as their own innate ability.
It’s possible Willis falls to pick #20. It’s also possible the team attempts to trade up for him. If Willis gets past Carolina at #6, Atlanta at #8, and Seattle at #9, Pittsburgh may be in play. Just as they did in 2019, the team could look to move up ten-ish spots to get their quarterback.
Elsewhere, Brooks has NC State OT Ikem Ekwonu as the #1 overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars, showing there is no consensus as to who will be picked first Thursday night. Willis is the only QB drafted in the first round of Brooks’ mock, meaning Kenny Pickett and the rest would have to wait until Friday to hear their name called.