Gerald Willis III 2019 NFL Draft Profile

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Gerald Willis III
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 06: Gerald Willis III #9 of the Miami Hurricanes in action against the Florida State Seminoles at Hard Rock Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Overview
Position: Defensive tackle
Height:6’4”
Weight: 285 pounds
School: Miami Hurricanes

Gerald Willis III 2019 NFL Draft Profile

There may not be a more high-risk, high-reward defensive tackle prospect than Miami’s  Gerald Willis III. Willis had a season to remember in 2018, posting a combined 59 tackles, four sacks, and 18 tackles for loss. The New Orleans native started in 12 games and never really had a bad one, and his 18 tackles-for-loss were the most by a member of the Hurricanes since Calais Campbell put up 20 back in the 2006 season.

Willis initially joined the collegiate ranks with the Florida Gators back in 2014. However, his time with the Gators didn’t last long, as the talented defensive tackle transferred after just one season. He didn’t leave of his own free will, as Willis was dismissed from the team after an altercation with a fellow teammate.

After sitting out 2015 due to NCAA transfer rules, Willis returned to the field in 2016. However, the defensive tackle underwent multiple suspensions and appeared in just nine games while recording 17 tackles. Willis then missed the entire 2017 season to take a leave of absence. He returned better than ever, with head coach Mark Richt saying he was “proud” of what Willis accomplished “both on and off the field”.

Strengths

  • explosive first step leads to consistently winning at the point of attack;
  • strong player with raw ability to push around offensive linemen;
  • capable of getting to the quarterback and disrupting the pocket;
  • impressive speed for the position; capable of chasing down plays all over the field;
  • fantastic tackler;
  • consistent performances throughout 2018 season.

Weaknesses

  • struggles keeping leverage and gets stood up too often;
  • makes things harder on himself with inconsistent hand usage;
  • slower at processing blocking patterns than one would like;
  • only has one good year of film;
  • prior behavior issues are cause for concern;
  • sometimes loses control of emotions during game.

NFL Comparison: Darius Philon

Team With Need At Position: New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals

Projection: Second to third round

Bottom Line

Gerald Willis III carries a lot of risk, but also a high ceiling. The Hurricanes defensive tackle was a consistently disruptive interior force against both the run and the pass. His fantastic quickness allows him to chase down plays and he’s one of the best at getting into the opposing backfield. If everything breaks right for him, he’ll be one of the better defensive tackles in the league for the next few seasons.

However, Willis isn’t the safest prospect in the world. He only has one good season of film, which could lead to him being rather raw at the NFL level. As far as technique goes, he gets stood up more than you’d like, has inconsistent hands, and tends to lose his focus and let his emotions control him. Obviously, Willis doesn’t have the best off-field track record, as his collegiate tenure is littered with suspensions and a dismissal from Florida. In fairness, Willis has been on the straight-and-narrow for the better part of two seasons now.

If Willis can carry over his 2018 play into the NFL while staying out of trouble, he could be a great steal in the second or third round. However, the defensive tackle carries too much risk to be a first-round selection. Assuming he keeps his head straight, look for him to be a day one starter wherever he lands.

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