As of this writing, the Bears find themselves in possession of pick Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2024 NFL Draft.
There’s still most of a season to be played, but Chicago’s 0-4 start — paired with the Panthers also having not won a game — makes it likely that two high first-round picks are in the Bears’ future. Should they end up with the top pick in one way or another, the chances are high that pick will be used on USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
Not since Trevor Lawrence in 2021 has a No. 1 pick seemed like as much of a foregone conclusion so early in the pre-draft process. Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 2022 as a true sophomore and has been even more productive to kick off his 2023 campaign with the Trojans.
There’s still a chance Justin Fields turns things around as the Bears’ quarterback, and if he builds more performances like what he did against the Broncos, there’s a chance he could stick around as the quarterback in Chicago. However, his glaring inconsistencies and weaknesses as a passer, coupled with the team’s win-loss record over the last few seasons, make it difficult to project him as the franchise guy at this stage.
What exactly does Williams do well, though? Are there reasons to think he won’t be the can’t-miss prospect a lot of analysts tab him as? Let’s explore this by breaking down the consensus top quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Games scouted: @ Oregon State, 2022; vs. Utah, 2022; vs. Tulane, 2023; vs. San Jose State, 2023; @ Arizona State, 2023; @ Colorado, 2023
- Tremendous natural arm talent
- Elasticity in his arm that allows him to throw on the move well and deliver quick throws off-platform
- Great sense of touch behind his throws with above-average deep accuracy
- Able to hit throws into tight windows consistently
- Creativity outside of structure is arguably the best in college football
- Athletic QB with great agility and nice breakaway speed in space
- Capable of making full-field reads and dissecting defenses
- Keeps his eye scanning the field when he’s scrambling
- Has some encouraging flashes of being able to climb the pocket and make subtle movements to evade pressure
- Great combination of arm strength and accuracy that gives him a very high ceiling
- Does have some instances where he doesn’t always sense pressure perfectly
- Has a bit of a hitch in his throwing motion
- Some of the throws he makes in college probably won’t happen in the NFL due to a lack of that much time in the pocket
- Has some instances stretching the field vertically where he trusts his arm a bit too much
- Okay size at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds
Williams belongs in that tier of elite QB prospects that the likes of Andrew Luck, Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow have been placed in coming out of college.
Though Williams doesn’t have the size of Lawrence or the pocket presence of Burrow, he might be a better pure thrower than either of them. His arm elasticity provides for tremendous velocity and distance behind his throws, and he makes difficult throws look effortless. He’s one of, if not the most naturally accurate passers in college football today, and his ability to hit the deep ball should entice a lot of NFL teams.
It also helps that Williams is essentially a three-year starter at the collegiate level with an impressive win-loss record and individual resume. Some Bears fans will be quick to point out that he isn’t as good of an athlete as Justin Fields, but don’t get it twisted: Williams is certainly still more athletic than the average NFL starting quarterback.
Concerns about Williams’ pocket presence are valid but overblown. It’s not a strength of his game, but he still senses pressure fairly well, at least compared to most college quarterbacks. It’s an area in which he’ll have to improve in the NFL, but few have been perfect in that aspect of quarterbacking right out of the gate.
Overall, Williams is a special talent with elite tools and all the arm talent in the world. Comparisons to Patrick Mahomes have already been thrown out there for him, and while comparing him to the greatest quarterback currently in the NFL is a bit bold, the similarities in terms of playing style, arm strength and creativity are certainly there. It would be a major surprise if he wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
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