The countdown is on for the 2023 NFL Draft with many waiting to see whether the Carolina Panthers make C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young the first overall pick. However, there will likely be no debate in 2024 thanks to Caleb Williams.
Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, became one of the best quarterbacks in college football last season. Partnered with coach Lincoln Riley, the 6-foot-1 passer proved to be the top player in the nation and generated a ton of excitement from the NFL community.
While teams will have to wait another year for Williams to be draft-eligible, scouts are already thinking about his future in pro football. It’s with that in mind, recognizing Williams as a generational talent, that we examine five NFL teams who should tank for him in 2023.
Credit to first-year general manager Ran Carthon for immediately recognizing the Tennessee Titans need to be rebuilt. While Mike Vrabel is a very good coach, injuries to key players and deficiencies on the roster prevented Tennessee from ever being a Super Bowl contender. Looking ahead to the 2023 season, the Titans’ roster is one of the worst in football.
Tennessee can see if any NFL teams have an interest in Ryan Tannehill during the summer, holding on to the veteran quarterback in case injuries strike. However, the 2023 season should be all about preparing for the future. Unfortunately for fans, that means eventually parting ways with Tannehill and trading Derrick Henry to the highest bidder.
It’s the only path to becoming a perennial contender in the AFC South years from now. Trevor Lawrence is a franchise quarterback with a great supporting cast around him. In order for the Titans to become a true challenger for the Jacksonville Jaguars and even the Houston Texans, Tennessee must be in a position to land Williams in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Los Angeles Rams
While going from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy to finishing near the bottom of the NFL standings might’ve caused whiplash for the Los Angeles Rams, it sparked much-needed change. Los Angeles went all in to win a Super Bowl and now the front office is committed to a complete teardown.
- Caleb Williams stats (2022): 168.5 QB rating, 42-5 TD-INT, 4,537 pass yards, 10 rush TDs
It really won’t take much for the Rams to be in the mix for the No. 1 pick in 2024. They now have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and the offense won’t be much better, even if Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp stay healthy. While Stafford wants to play in 2023, he might not be committed long-term and whether he retires or is traded, Sean McVay needs someone new.
Williams is perfect for the Rams. He is already a star in Los Angeles and considering the Los Angeles Chargers have Justin Herbert, the Rams must find a face of the franchise to win the battle for fans. Williams would be the best quarterback McVay ever had, opening up this offense in a way we’ve never seen before. If there aren’t going to be fans at SoFi Stadium anyways, the Rams might as well go all out in their tanking for Williams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the state of the NFC South might compel the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to remain contenders in 2023, there’s no long-term benefit for it. Even if the team backs into a division title with a record around the .500 mark, they’ll be an easy first-round knockout in the playoffs. With that being the inevitable best-case scenario, Tampa Bay might as well plan for the future.
Tanking for Williams does mean trading Mike Evans this year, taking advantage of a market that isn’t strong at wide receiver. It’s the perfect time to move Evans, considering he turns 30 in August and the Buccaneers’ quarterback situation might eventually force him to request a trade.
Using this strategy does come at a cost. Todd Bowles is in a prove-it year, but his lack of success with Tom Brady might already be enough proof that he isn’t suited to be an NFL head coach. So, that sets the Buccaneers up for a scenario of dramatic change. If Tampa Bay is one of the worst NFL teams in 2023, it can be in a position to draft Williams and hire Lincoln Riley as its new coach.
The Indianapolis Colts failed in their attempt to acquire the first overall pick in 2023. It meant losing out on Stroud and Young. While Indianapolis could still pick Anthony Richardson or Will Levis, neither quarterback prospect are ready to be a starter for the Colts this fall. With that being the case, the Colts might as well just focus on 2024.
Indianapolis could trade down from the fourth pick, acquiring additional draft assets and some future capital. With the 2023 draft class, the Colts can focus on using their selections on the offensive line and wide receivers. It will all be part of the plan to create a good supporting cast for the quarterback they draft in 2024.
Naturally, this does require the fan base to sacrifice another year and they’ve already been through multiple seasons of quarterback purgatory. However, starting Gardner Minshew in 2023 with a depleted defense offers a high likelihood of landing a top-three pick in 2024. If that’s what it takes to land a generational talent like Williams, the long-term reward is worth another bad season.
We’ll start with the elephant in the room. Kyler Murray is still viewed as the face of the Arizona Cardinals franchise. However, the 25-year-old has shown an alarming lack of maturity through four seasons and his downward spiral in the second half of seasons raises concerns.
Even putting that aside, there are no guarantees Murray is still an elite athlete after he recovers from ACL surgery. Already scheduled to miss part of the season, Murray would be returning to a new coaching staff and one of the least-talented rosters in football.
The Cardinals might already be in a position to finish with a top-five pick next year. Naturally, their draft position would be even higher if they played it safe with Murray and didn’t bring him back until he was completely healthy.
At that point, drafting a quarterback like Williams on a rookie contract is a far better way to build a contender than paying a quarterback who is in the early years of a $230.5 million contract.