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Czikk’s Take: Would the Panthers be setting Malik Willis up to bust?

Sticking to football every Tuesday.

NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

My headline was a tad bit spicy. Look, I needed to hook you guys in.

But to be fair, we all know that the Carolina Panthers drafting Malik Willis does not imply that he’ll actually do well.

I recently read Josh Edwards’ list of “NFL Draft Buyer Beware Prospects” over at CBS Sports. Edwards included Willis on the list because “the fear is that he will walk into a situation where he is asked to start Week 1.”

I kind of laughed when I read the bluntness of that sentence, because the Panthers likely would attempt to start Willis in Week 1 should they select him. The assumption on Edwards’ part is that this will be bad decision because the Panthers are bad. He’s not wrong.

“If Carolina picks a quarterback, that prospect will have a good group of skill talent but the offensive line is a major concern. Quarterbacks are not going to learn anything but shattered confidence with little time to operate in the pocket,” wrote Edwards.

And, well... yeah. Fair point.

If it was bad with Sam Darnold then how good could it be with a rookie Willis? Could a miserable rookie year on a four or five-win Panthers team crush his spirit?

Perhaps I should pump the brakes on the doomsday scenarios, but you guys get the point. A lot of readers prefer the Panthers take an offensive tackle like Charles Cross, Evan Neal or Trevor Penning and stick it out with whoever Rhule has a quarterback, maybe Darnold. This would avoid the above scenario and perhaps prepare the team for a run at a gunslinger the following offseason.

To be perfectly honest, I still want the Panthers to take Willis and I want them to start him Week 1 because I don’t see any other reasonable alternative if they don’t acquire a veteran like Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. I’m okay with the “doomsday scenario” because I don’t think a difficult rookie season would crush Willis’ spirit. I think he’ll be fine. That second season will really be the crucial one to see if we’re going to have elite quarterback growth.

Quarterbacks are coming into the NFL and starting at a much earlier time in their careers, they know the deal and most of them come out alive on the other end, or at least as serviceable quarterbacks. The Josh Rosens do seem pretty rare.

Teams need to be ready to go all-in on their quarterback to be successful in this league. You’ve got to make a big bet on a quarterback in the draft.

But, of course, the Panthers still have to actually pick him. It just feels like it’s a foregone conclusion because so many of us want it to happen.


Would you start Malik Willis in Week 1?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    I mean, yeah, we have no other option.
    (97 votes)
  • 18%
    Grudgingly yes but I’m not thrilled on it.
    (96 votes)
  • 41%
    No. We have to sit him at least a few weeks before tossing him into the lion’s den.
    (217 votes)
  • 20%
    No. I live in the 1990s and any drafted quarterback is obligated to backup a starter for at least one full season.
    (108 votes)
518 votes total Vote Now