Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft has Washington taking surprise QB
By Jerry Trotta
Mock draft season has officially arrived, folks. Well, actually, it’s been here for a couple months, but the big-name experts in the industry have slowly but surely started to release their initial mocks of the offseason.
When it comes to the Washington Football Team, most mocks we’ve seen have had them selecting a quarterback at No. 11 overall, which would all but rule out the possibility of adding an established veteran through trade.
The consensus opinion is that drafting a QB would coincide with signing a capable placeholder in free agency a month beforehand.
After all, outside of Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett (and he’s a maybe) no prospect in this year’s class projects as an immediate starter. Due to his high floor, Pickett is widely viewed as the top-ranked quarterback, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s been linked to Washington in most mocks.
However, one of the biggest names in the business, Mel Kiper Jr., doesn’t see it that way. At least not yet. In his first mock of the offseason, the ESPN expert has Washington drafting Liberty star Malik Willis at No. 11 overall.
Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft has the Washington Football Team selecting Malik Willis in the first round.
For those curious, Willis would be the first QB off the board here. Kiper has Pickett going No. 18 to New Orleans and Matt Corral going two picks later to Pittsburgh at No. 20 overall as the only quarterbacks taken in Round 1.
Here’s what Kiper had to say about Willis:
"“Time for the first quarterback off the board. You might be surprised that it’s Willis, but you really shouldn’t be. He was in the QB1 mix all fall before he faded a little bit in the last stretch of the regular season. The more tape I watch of his past two seasons and the more I talk to evaluators in the league, the more I like him. Put simply, Willis is the most talented quarterback in this class. He didn’t always get to show that at Liberty, which didn’t have much NFL talent around him. (He was sacked an astounding 51 times in 2021.) This is a dual-threat signal-caller — he rushed for 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns over the past two seasons — with a powerful arm. I’m really excited to see him compete against the other top QBs in the Senior Bowl in a couple weeks.Like Denver, Washington could be in the veteran QB market, but I like the fit with Willis. Washington can’t go into the season with Taylor Heinicke as the starter.”"
At face value, it’s hard to disagree with Kiper’s assessment. Based on his intangibles (strong arm and dual-threat ability), it’d be very easy to argue that Willis is the most talented quarterback in the 2022 class. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be the first quarterback off the board.
It goes without saying, but it all hinges on how Washington rates Willis. If they’re as high on him as the 49ers were on Trey Lance, whom they traded four draft picks — including three first-rounders — to trade up and draft last year, then they should by all means take Willis. Just don’t trade up to do so.
Most fans would view this pick as a reach. Tough to fault them for that, though. After drafting Jamin Davis a round too early last year, fans have every right to feel hesitant about picking a quarterback that high whom many believe is a second-round prospect and likely needs a year or two as a backup before he’s ready to start.
We’d personally be stunned if Willis is the pick, but it all boils down to trusting Ron Rivera and the front office. Have they earned your trust? Well, that’s open for interpretation after their underwhelming showing in last year’s draft.