The Chicago Bears, as things stand right now, will have the no. 1 overall pick in this April’s NFL Draft. The overwhelming consensus belief when it comes to no. 1 is that USC former Heisman award winner and blue chip quarterback prospect Caleb Williams will be the top draft selection.
So, barring a Bears deal trading their first-round pick away, it looks like Williams will be coming to Chicago.
But the “he’s the next big thing” vibe isn’t universal across the NFL world. Some experts have called into question the character and mental toughness of the supremely talented Williams. Chief among those critics has been football scribe and former New York Jets scout Daniel Kelly, who posted a scathing indictment of the 22-year-old QB and his general mental makeup on social media.
“I believe any team considering Caleb Williams needs to think about the high risk from the neck up based on Williams actions, conduct and words that he’s demonstrated.
From painting his fingernails with obscenities aimed at opponents to refusing to shaking hands with Utah and refusing to speak to reporters after the UCLA game, Williams has given NFL owners and decision makers a lot to talk about.
…He’s much closer to Johnny Manziel than Patrick Mahomes on the spectrum.
…We witnessed Caleb Williams having a mental breakdown right before our eyes crying uncontrollably in his mother’s arms. To me —as a former NFL Scout, he’s the most mentally fragile player I’ve ever evaluated, quarterback or otherwise.
He has little experience dealing with adversity even by his own admission…And now we think he’s going to go into a team with a losing record and turn it around?
He’s 2-9 against ranked college teams on top of it all— and now he’s going to do it in a league that’s only faster and more complex?
Make it make sense.”
Kelly would even bring up an incident where his USC teammates seemed to be jubilant in his absence, chanting “We a team now! We a team now!” after upsetting Louisville in the Holiday Bowl.
However, ESPN’s Field Yates has recently turned back the notion of Williams’ character and mental toughness being in question.
“I gotta be honest with you guys,” Yates said on ESPN 1000, referring to attacks on Williams’ character. “I think some of it has been unfair to Caleb so far. I haven’t heard anything from anybody that’s been in that program, or that’s been around that program, scouting Caleb Williams in person.
“I can’t say that I’ve spoken to every NFL scout that’s been through the USC campus. But nobody I’ve spoken with has told me ‘His character is such a concern that you need to be investigating it night and day until the draft.’ As a matter of fact, nothing even close to that.
“Honestly, I don’t think character is like a red flag, or leadership is a red flag for Caleb Williams at all.”
Williams’ Trojans teammate Brenden Rice, son of NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, has voiced his support for Williams, predicting dire consequences for the front office exec who passes on the young talent.
“If you can go ahead and risk [not picking him] and picking apart his game and letting him fall, have fun losing your job, man,” Rice told Jason Lier of the Chicago Sun Times. “Honestly, have fun. I’m proud of my quarterback.”
Ultimately, the ball is in Chicago’s court when it comes to selecting Caleb Williams. Will he be the new sassy Jim McMahon quarterback of this generation, only gifted with elite-level athleticism and a winning edge? Or will he be a moody bust who makes fans long for the return of Justin Fields? Time will tell.