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NFL scouts already view USC Trojans QB Caleb Williams as potential No. 1 pick in 2024

Matt Johnson
Caleb Williams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams emerged as one of the best college football quarterbacks immediately upon his debut. He took over for Spencer Rattler and became the star of the Oklahoma Sooners offense then followed Lincoln Riley to the USC Trojans. While Williams doesn’t become draft-eligible until 2024, NFL scouts have already taken notice of his talents.

Williams, a 247 Sports’ five-star recruit in 2021, immediately put the nation on notice as a true freshman. He scored 27 total touchdowns and posted a 169.6 QB rating with over 400 yards on the ground and nearly 2,000 through the air.

After enrolling at Oklahoma because of Riley’s system and his ability to develop NFL-caliber quarterbacks, Williams followed his head coach to USC. The passing attack is living up to expectations in their first season with the Trojans’ offense.

  • Caleb Williams stats (2022): 3,010 passing yards, 31-2 TD-INT, 116.4 QB rating, 63.7% completion rate, 8.8 yards per attempt, 84.9 ESPN QBR

Williams is among the top Heisman Trophy candidates this season and USC is in the running for the College Football Playoff. While the Trojans are focused on the remainder of the 2022 season, NFL talent evaluators are already thinking ahead to Williams’s future away from USC.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times spoke to multiple NFL scouts about quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Dorian Thompson-Robinson. While the UCLA signal-caller generated some positive reviews, the reports on Williams were glowing.

“It’s kind of hard not to notice him. He would probably have been the top quarterback prospect last year, and this year he might be the top one as well. So he could be next year. He’s got a big arm, he’s athletic, he’s fairly accurate. He can throw on the move. I’m excited to study him when he actually comes out.”

Anonymous NFL scout on USC Trojans QB Caleb Williams

It is no surprise that scouts believe Williams would have been the top quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Kenny Pickett was the only first-round pick, and most NFL teams believe he offers a low ceiling as a starting quarterback.

As for the 2023 NFL Draft, Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are both superior talents to Pickett. However, Young comes with significant concerns over his height (6-foot), frame and whether or not his athleticism is enough to compensate for it. Meanwhile, Stroud will face skepticism after previous Ohio State quarterbacks busted in the NFL.

Unlike NFL quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes, Williams won’t be a late-bloomer prospect. A second NFL scout noted to Farmer that the collegiate star first caught his attention in 2021, when Williams made his debut.

  • Caleb Williams rushing stats: 725 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns on 159 career attempts

“He just has that `it’ factor, the moxie, the confidence, the athletic ability, the arm talent. He’s got the timing and the accuracy, but he’s also got a lot of the things that you’re looking for that are instinctive values that you can’t teach.”

Second NFL scout on Caleb Williams, watching him as a freshman starting QB vs TCU Horned Frogs

Williams is in a system tailored to maximize a quarterback’s strengths and the talent around him helps lead to impressive numbers and highlight plays. What matters to NFL teams is Williams’ physical abilities and his intangibles separate him as an elite quarterback prospect.

While general managers and coaches must be patient, scouts are clearly loving what they’ve already seen from Williams. If he takes another step forward in 2023, the conversation around the 2024 NFL Draft could quickly shift toward what NFL teams will tank for Williams or North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye.