Let me share some insight with you on this exciting edge rusher. From watching him play I can see he wants to play hard and take it to the whistle. That’s a special trait and one that’s not lost on coaching staffs at the next level. He exhibits explosiveness and quickness as he moves across the arch.This forces the QB to step up in the pocket and disrupting the timing of the play which gives teammates a chance to make a play. I kept telling myself as I watched Willis in action, that if the coverage held for just another second he would have had the QB. Capable of shooting around the edge he can also show a burst to close with. Last season that translated into 11.5 sacks. How many NFL teams would be hungry for a double digit sack guy? As you may or may not be aware of, I love the “tackles for a loss” stat. It shows me they get into enemy territory. Willis finished the 2016 season with 17.5 tackles for a loss, which exhibits that ability. Adding in 52 tackles vaulted him to the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, those don’t get handed out freely. Once he makes it to the ball carrier he finishes and ends the play. His team made him a team captain for the 2016 season. That shows he is a leader and that’s also important moving into the pros. Pro Football Focus had him at 87 QB pressures! Can you just imagine?
So Is he a OLB or a DE?
I believe he could play both positions. My first choice would be at DE. Getting around to the edge with his hand in the dirt hasn’t been an issue. Speed is not his only weapon. Showcasing a quality swim move aids him in his quest for the sack. He lined up extensively on the left side of center, which means he would not be a player you would see moved around. Playing the run game well left me feeling good about him staying on the field. Strength looked good. Looking at him as an OLB he does have good vision and can see what’s going on in front of him. His stop and go ability leaves me concerned with him in space. My perfect place for him would be in a 4-3 defensive end. Keep him in his comfort zone. Setting the edge in the run game looked natural. Add in his pass rush ability and I would love to see what he would do for his team. As a fantasy general manager, I would pass on him as an OLB and draft him at DE.
I’d look for him to continue to rise up people’s draft boards heading towards the NFL draft. You are looking at a player who will not quit. High motor player who has the speed with a quick step and closing burst. Us IDP guys are always watching for draft prospects who we can target in the middle rounds of our drafts. This is one of the players I would want. In the perfect fit, he will be capable of getting sacks at the next level.
Feel free to hit me up anytime at @DFF_JohnIDP