A former third-round pick back in 2017, Willis spent two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals playing primarily as a reserve edge rusher. Prior to that, Willis excelled at Kansas State emerging as a true breakout candidate during his senior season.
That season, Willis finished with 11.5 sacks and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year. After a standout performance at the Senior Bowl, Willis saw his draft stock skyrocket with some even projecting him as a first-rounder at the time.
Ultimately, the Bengals would snag him in the third round, but his NFL career would see a massive drop-off in production. For starters, the Bengals asked him to add on about 30 pounds from his meager 245-pound frame in college to around 275.
This may have hurt his explosiveness in the pros as Willis only managed two sacks over his 32 games played in Cincinnati. While he showed promise as a run defender with his new weight, he was ultimately buried on the depth chart leading up to his ultimate release.
But with the Jets, Willis could have the opportunity to unlock some of his untapped potential.
Willis will likely be asked to play in a stand-up outside linebacker role with the team, a role he didn’t play in Cincinnati or while at Kansas State. But such a role switch could see him drop some of the weight he added on in the NFL.