Merril Hoge evaluates Caleb Williams: 'The kid is not Patrick Mahomes'

On3 imageby:Nick Schultz02/09/24

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USC QB Caleb Williams
Jessica Alcheh | USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the 2024 NFL Draft, the conversation starts with Caleb Williams. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner is widely viewed as the No. 1 player on the board and is drawing comparisons to Patrick Mahomes with his ability to improvise while making plays.

However, NFL analyst Merril Hoge doesn’t sound convinced Williams jumps off the page as much as many might think. As he goes through his evaluation, he doesn’t see the comparisons to Mahomes, who’s gearing up to play in his third Super Bowl in four years this weekend.

With that, Hoge thinks the Chicago Bears could make a different decision than many around the league think. The sense is they are likely to trade Justin Fields and draft Williams, but Hoge thinks that would be a mistake.

“I’ve only watched Caleb Williams three games last year, three games this year,” Hoge told NBC Sports Chicago. “So I’m only halfway done. The one thing that is clear – he is not special. He is not something unique like a Patrick Mahomes, and I hope the Bears don’t think, ‘Well, let’s try to make up for our mistake when we passed up Patrick Mahomes and go get the Patrick Mahomes.’

“The kid is not Patrick Mahomes. He ain’t even remotely close to that.”

A closer look at the Bears’ decision with Caleb Williams, Justin Fields

Williams took the college football world by storm in 2022 as he totaled nearly 5,000 yards – 4,537 passing and 382 rushing – and 52 touchdowns to win the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. His 2023 season was still strong with 3,633 yards and 30 touchdowns with 142 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, but it was still a drop in production from his electric sophomore campaign.

Meanwhile, the Bears’ decision on Fields is an interesting one given their current position. He showed improvement as a passer in 2023, going from 2,242 yards and 17 touchdowns over 17 games in 2022 to 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns in 13 starts in 2023 – missing four games with a thumb injury. However, the Bears made a coordinator change, firing Luke Getsy and bringing in Shane Waldron. That means Fields will be on his third play-caller in four years, and adds to Ryan Poles’ decision at quarterback.

To Merril Hoge, the turnover makes it hard to evaluate Fields. That said, he’s seen enough to say the Bears should build around him.

“It is unfair to Justin Fields,” Hoge said. “He has had new coordinator, new coordinator, new coordinator. There is no possible way you can know about your guy when you do that. It’s the worst thing that can happen to any player, especially at quarterback.

“Now, when Justin came out, the one thing that I thought he had, he had inexperience. He just needed more experience. He lacked that. But what I have seen in Justin Fields, from my evaluation, there is enough growth and hope there that I would not let him go because I see enough there.”