Bears draft Caleb Williams, USC QB, with No. 1 overall pick

Bears select 2022 Heisman Trophy winner with top pick

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates after being chosen by the Chicago Bears with the first overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Bears have a new franchise quarterback.

As most of the NFL community expected, the Bears selected USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall draft pick Thursday night. Williams was widely considered the No. 1 prospect in the draft and the No. 1 quarterback prospect.

The 22-year-old Washington D.C.-area native is about to take Chicago by storm. He joins a Bears team that went 7-10 last season and appears to be on the rise. He figures to become one of the city’s most recognizable sports stars before he ever plays a game.

Williams attended the draft Thursday night in Detroit wearing a navy blue suit with a zipper along one side and with Chrome Hearts crosses above the breast pocket. He becomes the first quarterback the Bears have ever drafted No. 1 overall. He’s also the first player the team has selected with the No. 1 pick since 1947.

“I believe the culture that they’re building,” Williams said of the Bears. “The culture. The coaches. That’s where it stems from. And then I’d also say that the love and support that the fans have been giving. They’re ready, they’re hungry, they’re all excited.”

Williams won the Heisman Trophy at USC in 2022 and threw for more than 10,000 passing yards over three college seasons, with 93 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He plays a style of quarterback that evokes comparisons to Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray. At 6-foot-1, 214 pounds, he’s sturdy enough to withstand hits, but he can move with speed and he’s always keeping his eyes down field.

For the Bears, this begins a new chapter in the rebuild that general manager Ryan Poles set into motion when he took over the organization in January 2022. Poles tore down the roster that his predecessors built and set his team up as best he could with future draft picks.

But even Poles couldn’t have envisioned his plan turning out this well. After a blockbuster 2023 trade with the Carolina Panthers that sent the 2023 No. 1 overall pick to Carolina, and Carolina’s 2024 first-round pick to Chicago, the Bears landed this year’s top pick thanks to an awful 2-15 season from the Panthers.

That paved the way for Poles to draft any quarterback he wanted, and that quarterback is Williams.

The opportunity to take a QB at No. 1 overall was simply too enticing for Poles to pass up. In March, he traded away starting quarterback Justin Fields in order to make room for a rookie.

The Fields trade was unpopular among some fans, but time will tell if the gamble on a rookie was worth it. The Bears will have Williams on a cost-controlled rookie contract for at least the next four years, with a team option in 2028. That will give Poles plenty of salary cap space to spend on other positions for the next half decade.

Chicago is a quarterback-starved city. The Bears are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t had a 4,000-yard passer in a season before. Williams said he was sure to ask the Bears front office as many questions as they were asking him.

“You ask why and things like that,” said Williams, who will wear No. 18 for the Bears. “They’re all for answering questions. They told the truth. They told me and my dad the truth about why and what and where and how it’s going to change.”

For Williams, this is just the beginning. He has talked about wanting to win not one, but multiple Super Bowls. He has lofty goals, for sure. But he will also have to win over his veteran teammates, many of whom supported Fields.

Williams had dinner with several of the team’s veteran leaders earlier this month. One dinner won’t win them over. He’ll have to prove he’s willing to put in the work and, ultimately, he’ll have to lead the Bears to victories.

But all that comes later. Right now, Bears fans can celebrate their team’s historic selection.

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.