The 2022 NFL Draft will take place one week from today, and when it gets underway, several major media draftniks believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers will select a quarterback in the first round. Not only that, many of those same draftniks believe that the Steelers are destined to select Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, and potentially even trade up in the first round to do so.
On Thursday, ESPN draftnik Todd McShay tweeted that he has believed all along throughout the pre-draft process that Willis landing with the Steelers is “the perfect marriage.” During the recent First Draft ESPN episode that focused on the draft and AFC teams, specifically, McShay went into detail on Willis possibly landing with the Steelers in the first round, and why he thinks it would be a great fit.
Can the Steelers land QB Malik Willis in next week’s draft? I’ve though all along it’s the perfect marriage. pic.twitter.com/u87g4WCOJz
— Todd McShay (@McShay13) April 21, 2022
“Malik Willis brings that running element,” McShay said. “You already have a strong run game. You’ve got a really good defense. So, why not bring in the quarterback in this class, the one quarterback that legitimately can give you a numbers advantage in the run game, a lot like we’ve seen with Lamar Jackson in Baltimore? You know, that’s the kind of play that I suspect that they’re looking to get with Mike Tomlin coming out and saying, we need more mobility at that position. So, Malik Willis makes sense.”
While McShay believes Willis to Pittsburgh makes a lot of sense, he’s not overly convinced that the quarterback out of Liberty will last until the Steelers scheduled first round selection at 20th overall.
“So, Malik Willis makes sense,” McShay said. “The question is – A: Does he go number six overall to the Carolina Panthers? Do the Panthers instead go with Kenny Pickett and then Willis starts to creep down the board a little bit, or do the Panthers just go offensive tackle with that six spot and both of the quarterbacks fall?
“Ultimately I think if Malik Willis starts to creep into like the 10, 12, 13 range, the Steelers, if they like him as much as I think that they like him, and like him as much as Hugh Freeze told me that Mike Tomlin likes him, they could wind up moving up to make sure another team doesn’t jump up ahead of them to go get Malik Willis with that pick.”
McShay’s ESPN draftnik counterpart, Mel Kiper Jr., also said in that same segment that he thinks the Steelers will need to trade up in the first round on Thursday night if indeed Willis is the player the team really wants.
“I do believe if you want Malik Willis, I think you got to go up and get him,” Kiper said. “I don’t think he falls to 20.”
Really, none of what McShay or Kiper said during the AFC special comes as a surprise. After all, the Steelers have been linked to Willis quite frequently throughout the pre-draft process, especially since the Senior Bowl took place in Mobile in February. Additionally, it’s been globally speculated for some time now that Willis will not last to the 20th overall selection in the first round, and thus if the Steelers really want him, they will ultimately need to trade up to draft him.
As McShay indicated, the Carolina Panthers really seem to be the big wild card team when it comes to Willis possibly falling out of the top 10 in this year’s draft. Additionally, the Atlanta Falcons, who still have the eighth overall selection in the first round, might also have more than just passing interest in Willis. If the Steelers gamble to see if Willis makes it out of the top 10, and thus past both the Panthers and the Falcons, perhaps there is a chance that Willis will fall to them at 20th overall. At worst, maybe the Steelers would be willing to trade up five or six spots to draft Willis should he make it past the 13th overall selection.
If you like to look at odds as it relates to the draft, the Steelers are now the favorites to land Willis at +250, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Last clip shows off Malik Willis’ obvious arm talent. Perfectly placed 33-yard rail shot on a rope. @malikwillis could be a top-5 pick for all same reasons 49ers took Trey Lance No. 3 overall last year—all the physical talent is all there! pic.twitter.com/shKgjShq3l
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 18, 2022