Range - Awesome range working top-down on the ball from deep coverage, triggering fast and closing with elite burst. Doesn’t show much of that in coverage however, working much better in tight quarters. Instincts and processing aren’t good enough to play as fast as his tools suggest he could.
Ball Skills - Dropped a couple of tough interceptions on low throws he nearly dug out in man coverage. Doesn’t have the instincts or ball skills to make a lot of splash plays in zone coverage. Three interceptions at Michigan State were mostly gifts.
Man Coverage - Locked down Michigan and Penn State’s tight ends with terrific physicality and technique. Good body control and stays in phase against bigger, less explosive targets. More mixed results against quicker, speedier slots. Little hip tightness shows up and he can’t make up lost ground off the line of scrimmage. Can get a little grabby in order to stay in position if he falls behind on vertical routes.
Fluidity/Agility - Plays on the balls of his feet and can side shuffle quickly to change his angle when under control. When moving at full speed, can’t bend his angle on the move and must throttle down again to change direction smoothly.
Tackling - Occasionally gets a little overaggressive and can slide off stops, but vast majority of the time he breaks down wonderfully in space and makes sure tackles even when he has to go outside his frame. Strength and length get runners on the ground 1v1. Flashes of hitting power, but needs to come into stops a little more leveraged. Closing burst to eliminate space is eye-popping.
Run Defense - Really strong run defender from around the line of scrimmage or coming from deep. Mostly good fills to run the alley on the perimeter, needs to keep his angles sound at all times. Intense and physical in his demeanor, sorts through trash to find the football. Quick to key-and-diagnose and get downhill. Reliable last line of defense, bringing the fight to ball carriers and not letting himself get caught flat-footed in space.
Route Recognition - At his best when his role is kept simple, as in man coverage rules. Doesn’t process route combinations well and can be caught in no man’s land in deep zone coverage. Will bite on play action and needs to be more disciplined with his eyes and processing.
Versatility - I wouldn’t play him deep at all in the NFL. Pseudo-linebacker, dime safety who matches up with tight ends in the slot and can play the run in the box with size and mental processing.
Competitive Toughness - Elite competitor with sterling football character. Work ethic and leadership, both vocal and by example, are off the charts. Physical with a hot motor in all phases of the game, often chirping after the play.
Athleticism/Size - Stocky safety with a pro-ready build at 213 pounds. Solid long speed for the position with a little explosiveness out of the blocks. Jumps were poor at the Combine and agilities likely would not have been great.
BEST TRAIT - Tackling
WORST TRAIT - Zone Coverage
RED FLAGS - None
A high-character safety who plays a physical brand of football, Willis is a limited deep safety who won’t create splash plays or erase vertical routes with his range and instincts. Instead, he’s at his best around the line of scrimmage against the run or as a big slot defender matching up with tight ends in man coverage. Willis can help an NFL team as a third safety and special teams star right away, but his upside is limited.
Round Grade: Early 4th