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Cat Scratch Reader snags QB Malik Willis at No. 6

The Panthers need a long-term answer at quarterback. That may not be Willis right away, but Cat Scratch Reader looks toward the future of the position.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

With the No. 6 pick in the SB Nation community mock draft, the Carolina Panthers select Malik Willis. The Panthers have been searching for an answer at the quarterback position for two years now and had the pick of the entire 2022 rookie quarterback crop to find their answer. They chose Willis, in short, because he is both the highest ceiling guy and the best fit out of any quarterback in this draft.

There will be some fans who are going to be upset at not getting a guy like Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross or Georgia defensive end Travon Walker. Both are arguably safer bets while also being top end talents at positions of need for the Carolina Panthers. I get it. I would be among those fans.

However, the Panthers have made it abundantly clear that their top priority is finding a quarterback. After trading second, fourth, and sixth-round picks to the New York Jets last season for Sam Darnold, they have also made it clear that they don’t care what they pay or who they are paying it for when it comes to quarterbacks.

With a big arm, big legs, and an already established mentor/mentee relationship with Cam Newton, Willis has been a popular pick by some Panthers fans all offseason. For the team, Willis has all the physical tools you could ask for and a demonstrated ability to create plays out of the structure of the offense—a trait which has been historically useful when playing behind a Panthers offensive line.

The high ceiling that Willis presents is, unsurprisingly, paired with a lower floor than some other quarterbacks in this class. Guys like Kenny Pickett or Matt Corral are considered to be more pro-ready. However, the Panthers are looking for a long-term answer and “2022’s Andy Dalton” isn’t that.

Many of Willis’ struggles in college came from sloppy mechanics that a competent coaching staff might be able to iron out. Since the Panthers seem intent on proving Matt Rhule is just that, Willis is their no-brainer answer.

Best players remaining:

  • Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
  • Charles Cross, T, Mississippi State
  • Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
  • Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
  • George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue