Caleb Williams Draft Profile
The NFL is cyclical, with offenses consistently finding ways to break defensive rules and defenses finding ways to take away what offenses do best. It is four-dimensional chess with lines blurry enough to humble any coach on any given week. The NFL is a paradox because while the league tends to repeat trends every year, Murphy’s Law still peaks its head on a weekly basis. Every few years, a player comes into the mix that changes the way people look at football. Take someone like Patrick Mahomes, who completely altered the ways teams play defense. The evolution and league-wide acceptance of Fangio and Saban’s match defense were expedited because it takes away what Mahomes does best, the deep ball. Not only was Mahomes a catalyst for defenses to evolve, but he also raised the standards for opposing offenses. Defenses approach the game differently than “any other week,” and offenses put an emphasis on keeping Mahomes off the field. Mahomes literally is a “game-changer,” and USC Quarterback Caleb Williams is capable of having a similar impact on the game.
After winning the Heisman Trophy in his sophomore season, Caleb Williams has been revered as the best quarterback to enter the league since Andrew Luck. Born and raised in Washington D.C., Williams was the number one recruit in the country coming out of high school. In his true freshman season at Oklahoma, Williams replaced Spencer Rattler in the second quarter vs. Texas while trailing by three possessions. He immediately provided a spark for the Sooners' offense, leading Oklahoma to a 55-48 comeback victory in the Red River Rivalry game. There was no looking back from there. After an incredible true freshman year, Williams transferred to USC, joining Lincoln Riley in the PAC-12. In his first season with the Trojans, Williams was nothing short of spectacular. On top of being named the best player in College Football (and all of college sports, for that matter), Williams embraced the “LA lifestyle.” Whether it is his 250,000+ Instagram following, sitting courtside at Lakers’ games, or features in GQ magazine, Williams has the physical abilities of a superstar and the off-field presence to match.
Standing at 6’1, 215 lbs., Williams has below-average size, but it has not deterred him from playing at an elite level on the biggest of stages. Physically, Williams is one of the most gifted quarterbacks in recent memory. He has rare arm strength, very good short-area burst and quickness, as well as excellent feet that allow him to make ridiculous throws outside of the pocket. What Williams does outside of the pocket is transcendent. His ability to vary his arm angles and make throws all over the field with pressure in his face is rare. It is hard to sit down when watching Williams take a snap; he is that exciting. There is a sense of creativity that Williams plays with; he consistently makes something out of nothing and gets his team out of bad situations. Williams’ capacity for playmaking is what gets scouts excited and makes opposing coaches sweat. Some may argue that he needs to be better in structure, but given the speed of his release and how quick his setup is, I am confident he will be able to make routine plays routinely in addition to the “wow” plays.
After three years in Lincoln Riley’s system, Williams had a strong grasp of the offense, and it was clear that Riley trusted him to change plays at the line of scrimmage and check USC’s offense into better play calls. I don’t have any concerns regarding Williams’ intelligence; I believe he has the mental capacity to handle both the cognitive strain of the position and the pressure that comes with it. He is an extremely passionate player that rides the wave of emotions. That is my biggest concern with Williams. While he is capable of energizing his team, his body language can also hurt his team. I believe having a coach who is encouraging but also capable of bringing him to neutral is vital. Otherwise, it will be difficult for him to find consistency when the current is against him. At the end of the day, I would rather have a quarterback who is overly expressive because he cares that much than a quarterback who doesn’t care at all on my team. Learning to harness his emotion in a positive way will come with time and maturation, but I believe being surrounded by positive, veteran leadership is pivotal for Williams early on in his career.
Williams has excellent upper and lower body quickness. His ability to reset his base outside of the pocket and deliver the ball without wasted motion gives offensive coaches no restriction in his playbook. When his timing of a play is off or he is late on his read, Williams is capable of speeding up his process without becoming erratic. Williams has a greater room for error because of the speed of his mechanics; this puts his floor extremely high. Williams throws a very good deep ball, but his ability to make throws from varied trajectories, without a base, on all three levels is what epitomizes natural arm talent. Outside of Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, I haven’t seen someone with the combination of raw throwing ability and accuracy like Williams. He is intentional with his ball placement and is capable of fitting the ball into extremely tight windows. Whether it’s hole shots near the perimeter or throwing guys open over the middle of the field, no throw is off-limits with Williams at the helm.
Athletically, where Williams stands out is in his ability to manipulate box defenders with his pocket movements. However, if I were game-planning against Williams, I would put an emphasis on maintaining gap discipline and closing the pocket in on him. When he feels pressure, he looks down at the rush to find lanes to step up through in order to deliver passes outside of the play's initial framework. Williams does a really good job at reading the defense post-snap, but when his eyes are down, he isn’t able to do so. He isn’t overly anticipatory, but when he has time to diagnose the coverage— he is fast and reactive. If Williams can build on those reactive skills and build up his anticipatory skills, it is hard not to have “Mahomes-esque” expectations.
Schematically, I believe keeping him in a spread offense where he can work through full-field reads would play towards his advantage. I believe a veteran, “alpha-like,” offensive coach who can keep him poised and develop his pre-snap recognition would be extremely beneficial to his career early on. Brian Daboll is a guy who stands out to me as an ideal fit because of his ability to teach quarterbacks how to read defenses and anticipate coverages. Sean Payton is another coach to look out for; he is extremely aggressive and missed out on Patrick Mahomes in the past. I wouldn’t be surprised if Denver pursued getting up to the first overall pick. I would also keep an eye on wherever Ben Johnson lands; Johnson is one of the most creative minds in all of football and would be able to build an offense that is predicated around what Williams does best. Comparison-wise, he reminds me of a young Aaron Rodgers. He is the best player in this year’s draft with a potential that is difficult to find words for.
Natural Arm Talent: 12/12 (Rare)
Accuracy: 7.78/10 (Very Good)
Natural Leadership: 6.67/10 (Good)
Decision Making + Eyes + Anticipation: 6.67/10 (Good)
Pocket Presence: 4.44/8 (Above Average)
Athleticism + Mobility: 6.22/8 (Very Good)
Deep Ball: 4.67/6 (Very Good)
Feet + Base: 5.33/6 (Excellent)
Throwing Motion: 5.33/6 (Excellent)
Toughness + Fearlessness: 3.33/6 (Above Average)
Final Rating: Good Quarterback
Pro Comparison: Aaron Rodgers
Draft Projection: #1 Pick
Draft Grade: #1 Player
Scheme Fits: Spread Offense with Full Field Reads