With the NFL draft finally upon us, several top draft experts are predicting Malik Willis to the Steelers in the first round.  Three out of the four latest mock drafts on NFL.com have it that way, with only Daniel Jeremiah disagreeing.  He actually has Willis falling all the way to the Lions at 32.  https://www.nfl.com/news/bucky-brooks-2022-nfl-mock-draft-4-0-steelers-take-malik-willis-vikings-land-jam

We can’t help but wonder, is the consensus best quarterback in the draft really going to fall that far in the first round? You have to go back all the way to 1997 to find a year where a quarterback wasn’t selected within the first twenty picks.  The immortal Jim Druckenmiller was taken at pick 26 by the San Francisco 49ers that year.  Since then only Chad Pennington (18th) in 2000, and EJ Manuel (16th) in 2013 have made it out of the top 15.  With all this historical data pointing to a quarterback being taken early, let’s take a look at which teams could spoil the Steelers hopes of landing Malik Willis at pick 20:

1.  Detroit Lions Pick 2:

The Lions have a quarterback already in Jared Goff, but it’s no secret he’s not the long term answer there.  Picking Willis and stashing him for a season would make perfect sense for Detroit.  Most mock drafts have them going defensive line with this pick.  The Lions could surprise us all here and take their quarterback of the future however.

2.  Carolina Panthers Pick 6:

The Sam Darnold experiment did not go very well for the Panthers in 2021.  He struggled mightily, and in turn so did the team.  The big question is with head coach Matt Rhule on the hot seat, would he be willing to take a quarterback he may never get the chance to use?  By the time Malik Willis is ready to be a starter, Rhule could be long gone in Carolina.  The more likely scenario is a Baker Mayfield trade at some point, but Willis can’t be completely ruled out.

3.  Atlanta Falcons Pick 8:

The Falcons are in a similar situation to the Steelers in terms of quarterback.  They signed what could be considered their “bridge” quarterback in Marcus Mariota this off-season.  The difference here is that Atlanta has many more needs all over the roster.  Most draft experts have them going wide receiver in the first round.  The Falcons could go in several directions with this pick, but this is a dangerous spot for the Steelers hopes of Willis sliding to pick 20.

4.  Seattle Seahawks Pick 9:

The Seattle Seahawks are telling everyone who will listen that they are very happy with the newly acquired Drew Lock at quarterback.  Given that this is traditionally “lying season” in the NFL, this might be the biggest of them all.  Most mock drafts have the Seahawks going corner or edge here.  We would not be surprised in the least if the Seahawks are using Lock as a smokescreen so they can draft Willis.  This is another potential Baker Mayfield landing spot, something to keep in mind as well.

5.  Washington Commanders Pick 11:

The Commanders made the trade for Carson Wentz this off-season potentially taking them out of the quarterback business in this draft.  Given how well that worked for the Colts last season, we shouldn’t rule out Washington here at all.  This is another team that could let Willis sit on the bench for a year, then take over in 2023.  Without a real glaring need elsewhere, the Commanders are a team to watch in the Malik Willis sweepstakes.

6.  New Orleans Saints Picks 16 and 19:

The New Orleans Saints already completed a strange trade this off-season.  They traded pick 18 and other assets for picks 16 and 19 from the Eagles for this upcoming draft.  The early speculation was that they did this to have the ammunition to trade up even further for a quarterback.  Lately though, the word out of New Orleans is they are looking to upgrade the roster with two position players in this draft. The Saints have a gaping hole at left tackle, so we assume at least one of their first round picks go there.  The other?  Well that’s the one the Steelers will be sweating out tonight.  The Saints also need a wide receiver badly, but they could easily go quarterback too.

7.  Pittsburgh Steelers Pick 20:

So there we have it, at least six teams who could potentially take a quarterback before the Steelers in the 2022 draft.  That isn’t even counting the possibility of a team trading ahead of Pittsburgh.  It has always been our opinion if the Steelers want Willis, they will have to trade up to get him. Steelers mock draft 4.0: The big move edition

While most of the draft experts have him falling to 20 and in some cases further, its tough for us to see that happening.  The 2022 NFL Draft promises to be one of the craziest of all time with several big trades expected.  Do not be surprised if the Steelers are one of those teams wheeling and dealing tonight.  It’s clear Malik Willis is their guy, and they are prepared to do whatever they have to in order to get him.