February 20, 2024

Brighton Journal

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USC Caleb Williams, the potential No. 1 pick, enters the NFL Draft

USC Caleb Williams, the potential No. 1 pick, enters the NFL Draft

USC quarterback Caleb Williams announced on social media Monday that he will enter the NFL draft. The decision comes on the last day in which members of the lower class are allowed to advertise.

Williams' decision formalizes his status as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. His official entry now highlights the Chicago Bears' offseason dilemma of keeping Justin Fields or trading him in order to build around Williams.

Williams' decision isn't a huge surprise. It's been clear since USC's disappointing 2023 season ended that he would wait until the final day to make a decision, similar to how C.J. Stroud waited until the final day to make a decision last year.

The debate surrounding Williams in scouting circles is not whether he is the No. 1 pick in the draft, but whether he is considered a once-in-a-decade or generation-type prospect. Williams' use of varied arm angles, his improvisational prowess, and his ability to use his legs combine to form an interesting package.

Williams won the Heisman Trophy at USC in 2022 and put together another strong season in 2023, even as USC's record dropped from an 11-3 playoff contender to 8-5 Pac-12 as well. Williams completed 68.6 passes for 3,633 yards in 12 games in 2023, compared to 66.6 percent for 4,537 yards in 14 games the year before.

While Williams hasn't replicated his Heisman magic and USC's performance has dipped — due to an apathetic defense — his consistent play and status as the best player and quarterback in this class remains secure.

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ESPN polled six scouts and executives on Monday, and none of them could see a different scenario than Williams taking the No. 1 spot. “I'd be shocked if it wasn't,” one veteran scout said. Another added: “He is the best player in the most important position.”

Williams finished his career, including his freshman year at Oklahoma when he won the starting job from Spencer Rattler, with totals of 93 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 10,082 yards in three seasons. He went 23-10 in his rookie career and appeared in 37 total games according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Williams also accounted for 21 rushing touchdowns in his two seasons at USC. Perhaps no statistic sums up his pure talent and potential more than his 10 career games of five or more touchdowns responsible for them. Per ESPN Stats & Information, only Patrick Mahomes has had more in the College Football Playoff era.

Williams and former North Carolina quarterback Drake May entered the season as the No. 1 and projected No. 2 picks in the draft. Both teams had mixed seasons, but neither quarterback did anything to change the situation. LSU's Jayden Daniels has pushed himself to the sidelines of that conversation with a breakout Heisman Trophy season, as no quarterback has done more to increase his draft stock than Daniels in 2023. One year after Alabama's Bryce Young and Stroud finished first and second, the wholesale expectation is that The quarterbacks fly into the top two again. If two quarterbacks go first and second, it will be the 10th time in NFL history that two quarterbacks have gone to that position.

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Williams gives the 2024 draft his headline, as the Bears' decision on selection will hang over the NFL in the coming months.