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I watched every Caleb Williams game. This is what I found

WCG’s lead draft analyst took to the Caleb Williams tape: all of it.

UCLA v USC Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

In order to prepare for the Chicago Bears holding the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, I watched literally all of the tape there is to watch on Caleb Williams.

Over the course of his three seasons at the collegiate level — between USC and Oklahoma — Williams threw passes in 36 games. He threw 1,099 passes, reaching 10,082 passing yards for 93 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a completion percentage of 66.9%.

And I went through it all.

The general consensus in draft circles is that the Bears will select Williams, trading Justin Fields and starting over at the quarterback position. While it has yet to be determined if general manager Ryan Poles will move on from Fields at all, the majority opinion being that Chicago will draft Williams makes him, naturally, the most talked-about prospect within the Bears community.

Maybe I watched all 36 games for no reason. The worst-case scenario is that I’m extra prepared on just another draft prospect, and seeing as though watching draft prospects is part of how I pay my bills, that’s not a bad situation.

The best-case scenario, however, is that I’ve done as deep of a film dive into the Bears’ future quarterback as one can possibly do.

I posted my scouting report on Williams back in October, but that was when I had watched 6 games on him. Now that I’m all out of film to watch of the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, I’ve decided to break him down in a more thorough manner.

Arm strength

For better or worse, scouts tend to fall in love with quarterbacks with big arms.

This trait can, from time to time, take precedence over fundamental issues like accuracy or decision-making. That said, the upside for a quarterback with a strong arm is much higher than one with a mediocre one. Most of the top quarterbacks in the league today can be classified as having insane arms: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert being among them.

Williams fits into that upper echelon of arm strength at the quarterback position. His throws consistently have tremendous velocity behind them, and the speed at which he executes his passes allows him to fit passes into tight windows in a way that only a handful of college quarterbacks in the 21st century have ever been able to do.

His ability to stretch the field vertically is also top-tier. He delivers an effortless deep ball and has the sheer drive needed to push the ball farther down the field than most quarterbacks.

Some have compared Williams to Mahomes, a comparison that carries an absurd amount of weight behind it. While it’s not fair to compare someone who hasn’t taken a snap in the NFL yet to the best passer in the game today, there are similarities in their respective games.

Perhaps the most obvious parallel is the arm elasticity. Like Mahomes, Williams is capable of delivering throws from wild arm angles and doing so not just with zip behind his passes, but impressive touch. His ability to hit the side-arm throw can see him maneuver around defenders in a way not many quarterbacks are physically capable of doing. He also is more than capable delivering rocket throws on the move, giving his offense an added wrinkle for defenses to take into account.

Even in a 2023 season which saw USC finish at 7-5 — thus falling short of the title contender expectations much of the nation had for them — Williams displayed good tape. He finished with 9 total touchdowns and 4 interceptions with 1,442 passing yards (288.4 yards per game) and a completion percentage of 68.1%. For reference, his completion percentage for the entire season was 68.6%.

It’s a matter of personal taste, but I’m not entirely judging Williams for the record of USC. The Trojans allowed 34.9 points per game, giving them the most points allowed per game in the Pac-12 and the second-most allowed in the entire Power 5. Williams played a lot of hero ball in 2023, but in his defense, he did have to quite a bit.

Accuracy

Williams isn’t just a reckless gunslinger; he’s also quite accurate with the football.

He hits his targets in stride regularly, placing balls right where they need to be. Not only does he do that, but he places the ball just out of reach of opposing defenders. There are multiple instances of him threading the needle on tape, as well as hitting difficult throws along the sidelines right to where receivers have the leverage advantage on the defender.

In a clean pocket, Williams is as reliable as they come in terms of accuracy. Though a tad inconsistent on the move, he has some seriously impressive flashes of being able to deliver accurate passes across his body or while scrambling. That, combined with his elite arm talent, allows him to make throws most other quarterbacks can only dream of making.

According to SIS DataHub, Williams led college football in IQR (passer rating adjusted for surroundings) with 128.3 in 2022. In 2023, he was still fourth in the nation at 124.4. Both metrics placed in the top-10 among quarterbacks combining the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

He cut down on it as his collegiate career progressed, but there are still instances on tape of panicky footwork affecting Williams’ accuracy — more on that later. He is a naturally accurate thrower of the football, but there are some times on tape (especially in 2021 at Oklahoma) where he would throw off the back foot, backpedaling to avoid pressure.

Overall, though, the sense of touch behind Williams’ throws is truly impressive. Once he establishes chemistry with a wide receiver, he quickly develops a strong sense of where to place his passes to hit his target right in the bread basket.

Athleticism

Some Bears fans get caught up in the athleticism debate between Williams and incumbent Justin Fields.

It’s no hot take to say Williams isn’t as good of an athlete as Fields. Then again, few in the NFL are. Realistically, the only QB who is a more dynamic runner than Fields is Lamar Jackson. Anthony Richardson is a bit unproven in the NFL but also offers elite athletic capabilities.

That said, Williams is still much more athletic than the average quarterback. He’s not in the Jackson and Fields tier of speed at QB, but he’s in the next tier down. When you get to the Jalen Hurtses, the Josh Allens and the Daniel Joneses of the league, one could argue Williams is more explosive than any of them.

Being tabbed as a sub-4.6 40-yard dash runner out of high school, Williams can beat you with his legs. He takes off with impressive acceleration, getting to top speed quickly and possessing the breakaway speed that some running backs would even be jealous of.

He’s not just fast, but Williams is agile, too. He is capable of making dynamic cuts as a ball-carrier to make defenders miss in space, and those quick feet allow him to maneuver the pocket well, as well.

Pocket agility is a strong trait of Williams’, and many of his highlight reel-worthy plays have come out of structure. He’s much more than just a strictly backyard passer, but when plays fall apart, he has the athleticism and creativity to keep the play moving. He forced a missed tackle on 38% of his rushing attempts in 2022 — the second-highest rate for a QB behind the aforementioned Richardson.

Decision making

I truly feel like Williams’ decision making is criticized way more than it should be.

That’s not to say Williams is a Tom Brady-level decision-maker. He’s prone to errant throws from time to time, trusting his arm too much to hit his first read through tight coverage. Though his arm strength is sometimes good enough to make dynamic throws in tricky situations, he does put himself into too many of said tricky situations.

There were some instances in 2021 where he looked hesitant, second-guessing himself as a freshman with the occasional lack of confidence. It wouldn’t necessarily surprise to see those issues arise as a rookie in the NFL as he adjusts to playing at a higher level.

That said, Williams isn’t the one-read-only quarterback some make him out to be. He has several instances on tape of him going through his progressions and accurately finding and hitting the open man past his first read. He got better at identifying the checkdown option as his collegiate career progressed, and his vision of the field is typically very good. When his guys get open, he’s going to find them more often than not.

Robert Schmitz put together a great reel of Williams in structure, including the ability to go through his progressions and make full-field reads. Even more impressive was the fact he was able to compile an 18-play highlight reel of the “non-flashy yet arguably more important” aspects of playing quarterback all from the Notre Dame game in 2023, which was objectively his worst game of the year.

Williams doesn’t miss open receivers very often. Rather, his issues as a decision-maker stem from what happens if his targets don’t get open. He has the mentality that he can make every throw on the field, and while his arm talent is remarkable, that doesn’t mean he necessarily can do so.

In all, Williams is a smart field-general of a quarterback who can regularly hit open targets and find the open man. His ability to go past his first read is better than most quarterbacks coming out of college. He’s not a Joe Burrow level of a cerebral assassin — nor is he Triple H, for that matter — but he’s a smart quarterback who’s better than many people give him credit for.

Pocket presence

Another common critique of Williams’ game is his pocket presence. There is certainly valid criticism towards him in that regard, but the cupboard isn’t entirely bare.

The biggest issue in terms of his play in the pocket is his tendency to play hero-ball too often. He has too many reps in which he focuses too heavily on the big play, scrambling and making unnecessary movements in hopes to extend the play. This home-run mentality can see him create pressure that wouldn’t have otherwise been there if he had thrown the ball away. Fumbles have been a major issue: he finishes his collegiate career with 32 over three seasons. This can stem from his inconsistency in terms of throwing the ball away, and while he got better at it the more he played at USC, it clearly isn’t second nature to him yet.

That said, his mobility and creativity can come in handy in the pocket. His top-tier agility allows him to evade incoming pass-rushers with ease, and his sense of a collapsing pocket is sound. When he does scramble, he does a good job of keeping his eyes up to scan the field and find an open target. He’s more than capable of extending the play with his feet, and though he’s a tremendous athlete, he’s still a pass-first quarterback whose ability to still find his man while simultaneously maneuvering the pocket is impressive.

Anticipation

Williams offers very good anticipatory skills, showcasing several throws over the course of his college career to throw his receivers open and hit his receivers in stride.

This ties into the Accuracy section from earlier, but Williams is more than capable of reading zone coverage, understanding how those route concepts will fare against the coverage he faces, and timing his throws to hit his targets right in the soft spots of opposing coverage.

USC’s wide receivers didn’t separate at as high of a level in 2023 as they did in 2022, providing Williams fewer wide-open opportunities than what he faced in his Heisman campaign. That said, his percentage of catchable passes increased from 84.2% to 86.8%. His sense of timing is obvious when you turn on his tape

Mechanics

Williams has a lightning-quick release with an elastic arm that can deliver bullets from practically any angle.

The speed and the ease of his throwing motion should prove to be incredibly enticing to NFL teams. He has a bit of a hitch in his motion at the top of his delivery, but the ball still comes out quickly. He follows through well with ideal weight distribution in a clean pocket, too.

His footwork can be a bit hit or miss, however. He did a much better job of avoiding throwing off his back foot once he got to USC, but it was an issue for him at Oklahoma. That’s not to say his feet are consistent 100% of the time. He will occasionally backpedal to buy himself more time if he doesn’t find an open man, and that can affect his accuracy.

There are certainly intriguing flashes of Williams showcasing picture-perfect footwork, though. It doesn’t come on a snap-by-snap basis yet, but Williams showcased growth over time in terms of his ability to climb the pocket, deliver throws and either reset his feet or deliver accurate passes on the move.

His sense of pressure is much better than the average quarterback — it’s just a matter of what decisions he makes and how his mechanics react once he senses said pressure.

Summary

Since I started formally grading draft prospects since 2017, Williams is the third-best quarterback I’ve watched.

Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow are the only two players with better grades on my board in that span. That doesn’t make Williams a “generational” prospect like some others have deemed him to be, but it still would make him the QB1 in the majority of draft classes.

From a physical tools perspective, Williams has what you want out of a quarterback prospect. He has the arm to make any throw in the book, and he’s a top-tier athlete with legitimate dual-threat ability. He’s also an accurate passer and an intelligent field general capable of reading the field well.

He’s not without his flaws by any means, but no prospect is coming out of college. He’s an extremely talented quarterback worthy of the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Whether the Bears are the ones making that pick, that’s for you to come to your own conclusions.