The Washington Commanders‘ acquisition of Carson Wentz came at a good time, as it gave the front office plenty of time to mull what to do with the No. 11 pick.
Before the trade, it was widely speculated that the Commanders would take a quarterback, presumably Liberty’s Malik Willis or Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett. Back then, it was wishful thinking one of them would fall outside the top 10.
After the Combine and their respective pro days, though it’s now highly likely both Willis and Pickett are off the board. Even if one of them is available, the Commanders’ pre-draft activity suggests they’re eyeing another position.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Willis, who has already met with the Steelers, Saints, Giants and Titans, is scheduled to visit with the Falcons and Panthers, who own the No. 8 and No. 6 overall selections, respectively.
While Rivera is clearly head over heels with Willis, Washington not being one of his pre-draft visits kind of says it all, doesn’t it?
The Commanders’ investment in Carson Wentz likely takes them out of the running to draft Malik Willis.
This report kind of hints at what we’ve been hearing since the Combine: Willis is a longshot to make it out of the top 10. Whether it be the Lions (No. 2), Panthers (No. 6), Falcons (No. 8) or Seahawks (No. 9), nobody would bat an eyelash if one of them drafted the dual-threat QB with their first pick.
Willis will presumably need the NFL equivalent of a redshirt year and each of those teams have placeholders to start for the time being. The Lions have Jared Goff, whose contract is movable after next season, the Panthers are locked into Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota and the Seahawks acquired Drew Lock when they shipped Russell Wilson to the Broncos.
In the slim chance Willis endures a fall on draft night, the Steelers feel like a potential destination even though they own the No. 20 pick. After all, the Saints, who moved up to No. 16 in a blockbuster trade with the Eagles, are really the only other team whom could justify drafting a quarterback that early.
Willis would be enticing at No. 11 overall, but the Commanders taking a QB with their first-round selection less than two months after they gave up multiple picks for Wentz would almost qualify as franchise malpractice, would it not?
Despite Rivera’s feelings toward Willis, whose skillset he likened to Cam Newton, the head coach has expressed big-time confidence in Wentz since trade, pegging him as a long-term investment as opposed to a one-year experiment.
The writing is on the wall. Willis isn’t currently scheduled to meet with Washington and Rivera wasn’t in attendance at Willis’ or Pickett’s pro days. In other words, expect a non-QB to be taken with the team’s No. 11 overall pick.
It’ll be the Wentz show in Ashburn for at least the 2022 season.