Will the Carolina Panthers regret passing on quarterback Malik Willis during an eventful 2022 NFL Draft for the organization?
Most of the talk surrounding the Carolina Panthers this offseason has surrounded the quarterback position. Sam Darnold’s time under center in 2021 didn’t do much to inspire confidence he could become the team’s long-term option, which left them going back to the drawing board for the third consecutive preparation period under Matt Rhule.
Not exactly the best way to build a winning franchise. Something that is reflected by almost no progress from the Panthers over the last 18 months.
After trade efforts to land Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson failed to materialize, those in power were left with the option of landing someone like Baker Mayfield or taking their chances via the draft.
There was some turmoil within the war room about which avenue to pursue. In the end, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo got his way and the Panthers traded up to secure the services of Matt Corral out of Ole Miss.
Willis was seen as the signal-caller with the most upside in this class. His production at Liberty may have had some serious flaws, but there is a lot to like about the raw traits and unbelievable arm strength he brings to the table.
Although WIllis’ potential for growth cannot be disputed, it’s going to take time.
This is a luxury that the Panthers don’t really have right now after much underachievement. So preference was for a prospect with proven SEC experience that could be integrated quickly into the lineup if Darnold fails to make the necessary improvements.
Corral represents a lower risk. But one that could provide the current regime enough promise to get an extended stay.
However, could Carolina end up regretting their decision to swerve Willis in favor of Corral?
Carolina Panthers couldn’t play the waiting game with Malik Willis
The truth is, we won’t know for some time yet.
Willis is likely to be sitting behind Ryan Tannehill for next season, at the very least. Much will depend on how the veteran performs during a critical campaign following Tennessee’s playoff failure last time around, which will play a leading role in his long-term future with the organization.
All Willis can do is focus on what he can control, get better every day, and acclimatize to pro concepts. Learning from the sideline should help – but there is just no telling for sure when he’ll be ready to assume command.
This will also depend on just how well Corral adapts. The player does like like a good scheme fit for McAdoo’s system thanks to his efficient processing and rapid release, but expecting miracles right away might be pushing things ever so slightly.
It does appear like the fanbase was higher on Willis than those in positions of power within the Panthers. The presence of a much stronger quarterback class in 2023 is another thing that put a large number of teams off from taking the plunge this year.
Both Willis and Corral should be highly motivated to prove people wrong. Living with regret is a possibility for Carolina, but that should not detract from what a productive player their selection might become in this sort of environment.