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2024 NFL Draft: Caleb Williams Will Be a Franchise-Changing Quarterback

Before we get into my evaluation of USC QB Caleb Williams, I would like to address the issue of “tanking.”

The media and fans refer to “tanking” all the time, especially if there is a belief that a generational quarterback will be available with the first pick in the NFL draft.

But tanking is not legal in the NFL.

There are severe penalties if it is proven that an NFL team is trying to lose on purpose to secure a higher draft pick. I may be naïve, but it has never crossed my mind — or the minds of anyone that I have been associated with — to tank for a player in the NFL draft.

There is no guarantee that the player you are “tanking” for is going to be a generational type of player at that position. You can project that he will be based on what you have evaluated on the tape, but you can’t control extenuating circumstances (e.g., injury) that could have an impact on that player’s career.

What Makes Williams Unique?

Let’s look at Williams, who is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick and has been labeled by some as a generational quarterback.

He is a unique talent at quarterback. Williams’ athleticism is on full display on every tape you watch, but he is a quarterback first. He shows poise and patience in the pocket. He, at times, is too patient and relies on his unique athletic ability to buy a second chance looking for the big play instead of taking what the defense is giving him. Williams won’t have that type of luxury — holding the ball for as long as he does in the pocket — in the NFL.

Williams shows his ability to get through his progressions and get the ball out on time when he must. His arm strength, release quickness and ball placement jump out on the tape. NFL defensive coordinators are going to have to game plan for Williams’ unique athletic ability and speed to make plays with his legs. Even though he had his struggles against the University of Arizona, he won the game with his legs.

He is very smart when he is on the move not to take unnecessary hits on scrambles. Williams makes all the throws necessary at all levels with good accuracy. At times, he will miss some downfield throws, but Williams’ downfield accuracy is more than adequate.

Going Off Schedule Is a Strength

His off-schedule play-making ability is what makes him special. The different arm angles and accuracy on the move also make him special.

He does a great job keeping his eyes downfield, looking to throw first before scrambling. He usually makes good decisions and takes care of the ball. At times, he may be overconfident with some throws and put the ball in harm’s way. For example, he made a poor decision throwing the ball up in the game against Colorado for an interception that was not necessary.

Overall, though, it is hard to poke a lot of holes in Williams’ game. He will have to adjust to the speed of the game in the NFL, and the windows will be tighter, but those adjustments should come quickly for him.

After watching the 2023 tape, there is no question that if everything checks out through the pre-draft process, he will be a franchise-changing quarterback for whoever drafts him.

Rick Spielman is a former general manager of the Dolphins and Vikings and winner of the NFL Executive of the Year award by Pro Football Weekly in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @spielman_rick.