What makes Caleb Williams good? Our scouting report is here

Here’s a look at what Caleb Wiliams does well, and what he doesn’t

USC quarterback Caleb Williams warms up for the team's game against UCLA, Nov. 18, 2023, in Los Angeles.

By now, just about the entire NFL world has penciled in Caleb Williams as the No. 1 overall pick by the Bears when the NFL Draft begins April 25. And for good reason, many consider Williams the best quarterback prospect in this year’s draft. He has been the favorite to go No. 1 overall since his Heisman Trophy season at USC in 2022.

In the end, Bears general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus will decide what to do with the first pick.

So what’s the deal with all the hype surrounding Williams, and is it warranted? Here’s our scouting report.

The arm

USC quarterback Caleb Williams, left, throws a pass as UCLA linebacker JonJon Vaughns watches during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Los Angeles.

There are a million examples of Williams’ arm making unbelievable throws. ESPN’s Mina Kimes recently shared a few clips on Twitter, including one where Williams drops back, focuses his eyes to his left, drawing the safety in that direction, then unleashes a ball across his body to his right for a 35-yard dime – even with his momentum carrying him to his left.

His ability to throw from unique arm angles and unique body positions is why he draws so many comparisons to three-time Super Bowl champ Patrick Mahomes. Williams has clearly studied quarterbacks like Mahomes, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers, who all excelled as passers in uncomfortable situations.

As far as strength goes, Williams has arguably the most powerful arm in this draft. North Carolina’s Drake Maye is right up there, too, when it comes to pure arm strength. Countless examples from college show Williams whipping the ball 50 yards down field as casually as one might swat a bug.

This is a quarterback who will have no trouble throwing the ball down field, or getting the necessary zip on tight-window throws.

If there’s any knock against Williams’ arm, it might be that he sometimes misses his target on deep balls.

But no quarterback is going to connect with his receiver on 100% of his deep balls. Simply put, deep throws are harder to connect. But when Poles and Eberflus see Williams’ arm strength, they likely see tons of potential that they can work with.

The escapability

Williams is an elite escape artist. He has a great feel for the pocket and he knows where pressure is coming from. He shows talent as both a runner and a passer when plays break down. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner spent that season rushing for 382 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He doesn’t possess elite speed like LSU’s Jayden Daniels, but he’s athletic enough to pick up first downs and he’s definitely not a liability when he’s running.

More impressive than his running ability is his ability to keep his eyes down field when scrambling. The Bears wanted Justin Fields to do that for the past three years, and his inconsistency in those situations is a big reason why he hasn’t become an elite passer in the NFL.

Williams seems to always know where his receivers are, even when he has only a fraction of a second to find a target. He definitely takes a throw-first mentality. While he is a capable runner, he’s always looking to throw until he exhausts all options.

His arm strength comes into play here too. He can whip out passes in a flash. He can do it at weird angles and he can hit targets who most college quarterbacks wouldn’t even attempt to throw to.

The pocket play

The biggest misconception about Williams might be the notion that he doesn’t play from within the pocket. Williams does scramble often and he does, at times, try to do too much in scrambling situations. He was especially guilty of that at times during the 2023 season, when his offensive line faced some challenges and the USC defense couldn’t stop anyone.

But the idea that he can’t play from the pocket is simply wrong.

In fact, Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the best college quarterback when playing with a clean pocket last season. Williams’ feel for the pocket – both when he can afford to stay in the pocket and when he needs to bail – is what allows him to play so well as a scrambler.

During his pro day, Williams worked mostly in the pocket to show NFL scouts that he could do exactly that.

The will to win

Williams is the first true superstar of the NIL era in college football. By some estimates, he made more than $10 million last year as the quarterback at USC. His endorsements included Dr. Pepper, Nissan, Wendy’s, and more. He was essentially already a professional football player.

Williams has trained for this moment his entire life. His dad hired quarterback coaches and media tutors when he was in high school, all to become the best quarterback in the world. In many ways, he’s as ready for pro football as any prospect ever.

For the Bears, though, it all comes down to one thing. Is this a quarterback whose primary concern is winning?

At the combine in March, Williams said his No. 1 hope is that he lands with an organization that wants to win.

“I want to go to a place that wants to win,” Williams said on March 1. “A whole 360, from the top all the way to the [players] and down to the janitors, the people that make everything run. Everybody wants to win. Everybody’s a part of that and we all take care of each other.”

Some might look at Williams crying in the stands with his mom after a tough loss and see weakness. Others might see a passionate player who cared only about winning, not his stat line or his dollar signs.

I want to go to a place that wants to win. A whole 360, from the top all the way to the [players] and down to the janitors, the people that make everything run.”

—  Caleb Williams, USC quarterback

QB comparison

Mitch Trubisky, left, poses with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Chicago Bears with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

Bears fans know all too well that being a good prospect doesn’t equate to being a successful NFL quarterback. Time may heal all wounds, but Bears fans still have a faint scar remaining from the 2017 draft, when the Bears selected Mitchell Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes.

Don’t forget, however, that many draft analysts had Trubisky rated higher than Mahomes. draft analysts rank prospects on a scale from 5.50 to 8. had Mahomes rated as a 6.30 (along with the moniker ”will eventually be a plus starter”). They had Trubisky as a 7.00 (”Pro Bowl talent”).

Currently, by that same grading scale, has Williams rated as a 6.74, with Jayden Daniels just behind him at 6.73 (both listed as “Year 1 starter”). Drake Maye is a 6.50 (”boom-or-bust potential”).

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to Poles’ evaluation, plus his vision for what a good quarterback should be capable of. Williams, Daniels and Maye are all different styles of quarterback. Poles was in the room when the Chiefs traded up to No. 10 overall to select Mahomes. The similarities in Williams’ and Mahomes’ playing styles might put Williams over the top.

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.