NFL Scouting Combine preview: 5 quarterbacks for Chicago Bears to watch

Caleb Williams, Drake Maye highlight this year’s QB group

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix throws during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl against Liberty, Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, in Glendale, Ariz.

The NFL Scouting Combine is less than a week away. All 32 NFL teams will converge on Indianapolis for the annual convention, where teams will have the chance to meet individually with all 321 invited prospects.

For the Bears, a busy draft season lies ahead. They hold the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft – thanks to last year’s trade with the Carolina Panthers – as well as the No. 9 pick. The combine will be a critical week for general manager Ryan Poles and the Bears.

Below are five quarterbacks who the Bears should be paying close attention to in Indianapolis. Quarterbacks will work out March 2.

1. Caleb Williams, USC

USC quarterback Caleb Williams throws during the first half against UCLA in Los Angeles, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Let’s start with the obvious. The quarterback conversation has to start with USC’s Caleb Williams. For the Bears, it might also end there.

Williams is the overwhelming favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft and he has been ever since his Heisman Trophy-winning season at USC in 2022. He has a unique combination of arm strength, mobility and smarts on the football field. He can make plays in the pocket and off platform.

Williams (6-1, 215) isn’t the biggest of quarterbacks. If there’s one knock against his game it might be his size, but he’s not nearly as small as Bryce Young, last year’s No. 1 pick. Seeing his measurements at the combine might be the most valuable part.

2. Drake Maye, North Carolina

If the Bears were to take a quarterback not named Caleb Williams at No. 1 overall, North Carolina’s Drake Maye is likely the next best candidate. If Williams were not in this class, Maye could very well be the prized prospect. It comes down to what style of quarterback teams want. Maye (6-4, 230) has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback, combined with a rocket arm. His build is reminiscent of Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert.

He’s not dual-threat, per se, but that doesn’t mean he’s not mobile. His feel for the pocket and his ability to move within the pocket is what makes him an elite QB prospect. Whether he throws at the combine or at his pro day, he likely will wow every onlooker because he has insane arm strength and can make every throw.

3. Jayden Daniels, LSU

Nobody seems to know where LSU’s Jayden Daniels will be drafted. Some have suggested he could be a top-three pick, others see him landing outside the top 10. He’s easily the best running quarterback of this group. He ran for 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, while also throwing for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns.

Daniels (6-4, 210) probably isn’t going to be taken with the No. 1 overall pick. That said, if the Bears like him enough to pass on Williams and Maye, trading down becomes a serious option. In a lot of ways, though, Daniels feels like a very similar player to Justin Fields – at least, in terms of the styles with which they play. When the play is not there, Daniels is likely to take off running. Like Fields early in his career, keeping his eyes down field when he scrambles will be a work in progress.

4. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy warms up before the Rose Bowl against Alabama on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, in Pasadena, Calif.

Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy can boast one thing that nobody else on this list can: a national championship. He went 27-1 as the starter for the Wolverines. McCarthy, who turned 21 in January, rarely needed to air it out last season, and the Wolverines played a relatively safe brand of football because of all the weapons they had around him. He has room to grow and more to prove, but that’s what makes him such an intriguing prospect.

Somebody will likely spend a first-round pick on McCarthy. His winning pedigree (he won a state championship in high school at Nazareth Academy) will impress NFL decision makers. He has the frame (6-3, 202) teams are looking for, he simply didn’t throw the ball as much as Maye or Oregon’s Bo Nix.

5. Bo Nix, Oregon

Oregon’s Bo Nix took full advantage of the COVID-19 year and threw for 4,508 yards and 45 touchdowns during his fifth-year season with the Ducks in 2023. If the Bears pass on a quarterback at No. 1 overall, Nix could be a target for the second round. If the Bears do stick with Fields in 2024, they will probably bring in another quarterback at some point in the draft. Nix has the experience to potentially step in and learn quickly.

Nix set the FBS record for single-season completion percentage (77.45%) last season, getting the ball out quickly in a pass-happy offense. Moving to an NFL offense could be an adjustment for him.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.