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Apr 25, 2024 8:21 pm

Bears take QB Caleb Williams No. 1 in NFL draft

caleb williams

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams was selected No. 1 in the 2024 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, as the expected became official when commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement on Thursday in Detroit.

“I’m ready,” Williams said Wednesday in a public appearance on the eve of the draft. “I did dream of this. I set my goals. I went after it. I got here.”

Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy and is the third quarterback drafted in the first round by the Bears since 2017, following Mitchell Trubisky (second overall, 2017) and Justin Fields (11th, 2021).

General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus arrived on the scene after those failed or incomplete QB experiments.

Their lack of success fed Poles’ plan to find his way to a franchise passer. Quarterbacks have been selected No. 1 overall in six of the past seven drafts.

The Bears received the No. 1 pick in this draft as a result of a March 2023 trade with the Carolina Panthers.

Chicago traded the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft for Carolina’s original selection in 2023 and more, including the Panthers’ first-rounder in 2024. After plummeting to the bottom of the NFL standings last season, it was Carolina that landed the No. 1 pick, which was relayed to the Bears to complete the trade.

With the stage set, Poles slow-played a decision on Fields’ future but ultimately opted for a reset to execute his vision of finding the franchise a long-term answer at quarterback.

Chicago also started Thursday night with its own 2024 first-round pick, No. 9 overall.

Williams passed for 3,633 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions for the Trojans in 2023. He passed for 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns with five interceptions in 2022.

Expectations are sky-high for Williams, who arrives anointed the QB1 following the March trade of Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams took only one pre-draft visit to an NFL team — the Bears — and met with the team on three occasions in the pre-draft buildup to Thursday night.

The Bears offer a stellar supporting cast for an incoming rookie. DJ Moore had a team-best 96 receptions for 1,364 yards with eight touchdowns in 2023 in his first season in Chicago. He was acquired in the 2023 trade with the Panthers.

Chicago also added Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen in a trade this offseason and signed free agent running back D’Andre Swift from the Eagles.

Opinions on Williams vary, and many draft analysts questioned his personality when raising doubts about the live-armed athlete who has drawn comparisons to Chiefs All-Pro Patrick Mahomes.

Williams’ blue-chip talent appears to be universally appreciated. Former Colts general manager Bill Polian, who selected Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf in 1998, summarized the polarizing debate around Williams, noting, “The better the arm, the harder the lessons.”

The Bears drafted No. 1 overall for the third time in team history and first since selecting Oklahoma A&M running back Bob Fenimore in 1947. With the top pick in 1941, Chicago drafted Michigan running back Tom Harmon. Harmon instead opted to play in the American Football League with the New York Americans. He’s the father of actor and former UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon.

Williams becomes the sixth USC player selected No. 1 overall, joining offensive tackle Ron Yary (1968, Minnesota Vikings), running back O.J. Simpson (1969, Buffalo Bills), running back Ricky Bell (1977, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (1996, New York Jets) and Carson Palmer (2003, Cincinnati Bengals).

–Field Level Media

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