HomeFootball DirtUSC Quarterback Caleb Williams Declares for 2024 NFL Draft

USC Quarterback Caleb Williams Declares for 2024 NFL Draft

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While connected to potentially bypassing the 2024 draft if he found his potential destination unsatisfactory, Caleb Williams will make his expected move soon. The USC quarterback is entering the draft, ESPN.com’s Pete Thamel reports.

Williams has long been expected to declare, and he joins Drake Maye in doing so. The 2022 Heisman winner is favored to become the No. 1 pick, with the Bears firmly in play to move on from Justin Fields and draft the two-year USC star. That is not set in stone, however, and Fields’ status will play a major role in Williams’ NFL future.

Monday represents the deadline for players to make their draft declarations, and while Williams has made millions via the NIL component that has changed major college athletics, that pales in comparison to what he would make over the course of a fully guaranteed No. 1 overall contract. Bryce Young is tied to a $37.96MM fully guaranteed deal; the No. 1 pick in 2024 will slide in a bit higher.

The Bears have a fascinating decision ahead, and Williams will drive the seminal call. The former Oklahoma recruit has been viewed as a top-tier prospect for an extended stretch, with his ceiling as a passer separating him from Fields, who has shown elite abilities as a runner but has been inconsistent as a thrower through three seasons. The Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers last year, allowing Carolina to move up for Young. Williams brings a higher prospect pedigree than Young or C.J. Stroud, giving the Bears more to consider this year. After making the Carolina trade before free agency last year, GM Ryan Poles looks set to be more deliberate this time around.

Transferring from Oklahoma to follow Lincoln Riley to Los Angeles, Williams won the Heisman as a sophomore after throwing for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns while limiting his interceptions to only five. This past season, Williams kept his interception total at five but failed to match his other Heisman numbers with 3,633 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, albeit in two fewer games.

The 6-foot-1 QB has drawn early Patrick Mahomes comparisons, and while that is a lofty standard, Williams will enter the NFL with a better accuracy profile compared to the Chiefs megastar. Williams completed 68.4% of his passes as a junior and averaged 9.4 yards per attempt, marks north of his Heisman-season totals. He also operated in a larger spotlight compared to any QB who has entered the draft over the past two years. Like Trevor Lawrence during his junior season, Williams entered his final college campaign as the runaway favorite to be the following year’s No. 1 pick.

Chicago passing on Williams at 1 would surprise. Fields showed progress as a passer in Year 3, but development and being the reason for passing on a No. 1 overall pick for a second straight year are different matters. Poles also did not draft Fields; predecessor Ryan Pace did. The Bears must decide on Fields’ fifth-year option by May. If the Bears trade him, they would do so before that point, giving Fields’ second NFL team that responsibility. Drafting Williams would also come with at least three years of rookie-deal salary, giving Chicago a chance to fortify its roster in other places. Picking up Fields’ option would start the clock on the Ohio State alum, whose rookie-deal salaries would stop in 2024.

The Fields case is not without considering for Chicago, either; it just comes with tremendous risk. Trading the top pick would fetch the Bears far more than trading Fields will, potentially requiring a Robert Griffin III-type haul for a team to move up — well, depending on where that team is currently slotted. But Poles and Co. would need to be convinced Fields will develop into a surefire franchise option for that route to be strongly considered.

Although some buzz about Fields still being the Bears’ future has emerged, more Williams-to-Chicago noise has come out. Either way, this will be one of the most interesting leadups to a draft in modern NFL history.


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