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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. reveals where Caleb Williams lands in first mock draft

Erik-McKinneyby:Erik McKinney01/23/24


ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. always dominates discussion when it comes to the NFL Draft and the analyst announced himself into the conversation on Tuesday when he released his first mock draft of the season. And it’s another piece of positive news for USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who again lands at the very top.

The Trojans fell flat over the second half of the season and Williams just kind of faded out of the spotlight as USC lost its final three games and Williams quietly opted out of the Holiday Bowl. But it hasn’t affected how he’s viewed heading into the 2024 NFL Draft process. Kiper joins a long line of voices who have stuck Williams at No. 1 overall, going to the Bears despite Chicago having quarterback Justin Fields.

Here’s what Kiper had to say about putting Williams at No. 1, going to the Chicago Bears.

Are the Bears really going to pass up the chance to take the top quarterback in back-to-back draft classes? I just don’t see it. Last year, of course, they got a huge haul from Carolina for trading down, with this pick included in the deal. This year they have to decide whether to keep Justin Fields or trade down again, for a bounty that likely will be even bigger. Here are the two biggest reasons why I’d keep the pick if I were running the Chicago front office:

  1. Williams is a better prospect than Fields. We’ve now seen three NFL seasons from Fields, and he hasn’t put everything together on a consistent basis. There are too many unknowns for a guy with 38 career starts. He has completed just 60.2% of his passes while throwing 40 touchdown passes with 30 interceptions and has averaged just 7.0 yards per attempt in his career. Williams, my top-ranked prospect, is ahead of Fields as a passer — the USC product has the skill set and instincts to be a top-tier quarterback at the next level.
  2. Taking Williams resets the Bears’ quarterback clock, which matters in an age when having a quarterback on a rookie contract means teams can build a better roster around them. If they keep Fields, they’d have to decide on his fifth-year option this spring and then extend his contract within the next year. Are they ready to do that? With a rookie, they’d get four years at a much less expensive cap number before having to pay up.

Now, Chicago doesn’t have ideal leverage to trade Fields, but it only takes two suitors to create a market. Remember that when the Cardinals traded Josh Rosen one year after drafting him at No. 10 overall, they got a second-round pick from the Dolphins. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears get a first-rounder in return for Fields.

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