Liberty star Malik Willis did not come back to the green room for the second night of the NFL draft to finally hear his name called in the middle of the third round.
It wasn’t out of bitterness or frustration that he wasn’t on hand for Friday’s second round. His absence from Caesars Forum was due to a far more practical reason.
“I didn’t have another suit,” the newest quarterback of the Tennessee Titans said on a video conference call.
He instead rented out a bowling alley in Las Vegas to watch Day Two with nearly a hundred friends and family members. They finally got to celebrate midway through the third round.
Willis was almost universally slotted in the first round of most mock drafts and the posted over-under on his draft prop closed at 13.5.
But he insisted there were no hard feelings over all the teams that passed on taking him.
“I’m just blessed to have somewhere to go, somewhere to call home,” he said. “I’m appreciative of the opportunity to play at the next level. I’m just ready to go in and work hard and try to be the best teammate I can be.”
He wasn’t alone among quarterbacks in having to wait longer than expected to learn his fate. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett was the only signal-caller to be selected in the first round.
None went in the second round.
In all, 54 players were chosen between Pickett and Desmond Ridder from Cincinnati, who was picked 74th by the Falcons. He also went far over his draft prop of 30.5.
It marked the first time since 2000 only one quarterback was chosen in the first two rounds. The longest it has ever taken for the second quarterback to come off the board was 85th in 1996.
Wills went 12 spots after Ridder and then Matt Corral of Ole Miss was selected by Carolina to bring the total to three in the third round.
The Steelers, Falcons and Panthers have all been expected to be in the quarterback market during this draft for months. Tennessee was a bit of a late entrant, but it does make sense.
Ryan Tannehill will soon be 34 years old and the Titans have the option of getting out of his hefty contract at the end of this season. His absence from voluntary workouts this month raised some eyebrows around the league.
Willis, however, is expected at this point to take an apprenticeship year behind Tannehill for a team that was the top seed in the AFC last season.
“I can’t predict the future, but I know right now we’re excited to get him and the other guys we drafted,” Tennessee general manager Jon RobiNson said of when he believes Willis would be ready to be a starter. “His role will be determined by how quickly he comes in and learns the offense and gains the respect of his teammates.”
Tennessee’s draft room was monitoring the slide of Willis and hoping he would still be available when it was its time on the clock. In the end, the Titans couldn’t wait any more and called the Raiders about moving up to get their guy.
“He was the best player on our board,” Robinson said. “We were a couple picks out. You’re looking at the teams ahead of you, but you’re also looking and being cognizant of the teams behind you and the potential for somebody to come up or a team in the fourth to come back into the third.”
The fewest quarterbacks ever drafted in one year was six in 1955. Since the merger of the AFL and NFL, seven in 2015 has been the fewest.
With the final four rounds on Saturday, there are still a few options to add to the four who have been picked so far this year.
North Carolina’s Sam Howell is widely considered the best of the bunch. UNR’s Carson Strong is the next most likely to be chosen.
There are also possibilities for Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe, Brown’s E.J. Perry, Notre Dame’s Jack Coan and Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson.
The fourth round begins at 9 a.m.