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2023 Summer Scouting: Caleb Williams, QB, USC

The 2024 NFL Draft is less than 10 months away, and @DanT_NFL is already diving deep into the film. Join us for our Summer Scouting series as we get an early look at the top prospects. This time we cover Heisman winner Caleb Williams!

Caleb Williams is an all-pro caliber quarterback prospect. ‘Tank for Caleb’ and ‘would have gone one overall this year’ are phrases that are all too common when paying attention to NFL offseason media. Is this hype warranted, or is this another case of the grass being greener in the next draft class? Join me for my Summer Scouting series as we take a maybe not too early look at what the 2024 NFL Draft class offers us. 

Profile

  • College: USC (Oklahoma)
  • Height: 6’1”
  • Weight: 215 lbs
  • Age: 21
  • Year: Junior
  • Draft Projection: Top-Five Pick

High School & Personal Life

Caleb Williams was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and played for Gonzaga College High School. As early as his sophomore year, he had led Gonzaga to a district championship with a season that included 2,624 passing yards and 26 touchdowns with 394 rushing yards and ten touchdowns on the ground. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan 1st team and his area’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year. He would repeat these accolades following his junior season. 

Caleb Williams Scouting Profile

Williams’ senior year was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he had enough on film to propel his college recruiting status. According to 247Sports, Williams was the number two quarterback recruit for the 2021 class in the country. He sat behind only Quinn Ewers, who would commit to Ohio State before transferring to Texas. Williams received over 20 offers from D1 programs around the country. He eventually settled on joining Lincoln Riley at the University of Oklahoma. 

College Career

Williams started his Sooner career behind Junior quarterback Spencer Rattler. This setup would not last long as Rattler eventually played his way to the bench by Week Six during the Red River rivalry game with Texas. Williams entered the game with a 17 – 35 deficit but led the Sooners to a 55 – 48 victory. He seized that starting job and never gave it back. 

Passing Table
PassPassPassPassPassPassPassPassPass
Year School Conf Class G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
*2021OklahomaBig 12FR1113621164.519129.110.2214169.6
*2022USCPac-12JR1433350066.645379.110.3425168.5
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 6/9/2023.
Rushing & Receiving Table
RushRushRushRush
Year School Conf Class G Att Yds Avg TD
*2021OklahomaBig 12FR11794425.66
*2022USCPac-12JR141133823.410
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 6/9/2023.

However, Williams’ career in Oklahoma would not last much longer, as he would eventually follow head coach Lincoln Riley out to USC. In 2022, he created an extremely impressive campaign culminating in a Heisman trophy award. Williams finished the season with an impressive 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns. All while maintaining a 66% completion percentage and only throwing five interceptions. He also added another 382 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground. 

The Numbers

Diving into the numbers of Williams’ 2022 season reveals how truly special of a year it was. He led the nation in touchdowns while finishing top ten in various passing categories. According to PFF, his Big Time Throw percentage was top-twenty in the nation, while his Turnover Worthy Play percentage was in the top ten. He made all the big, game-changing throws while keeping the ball out of danger. For a more basic stat, the yards per attempt were also top-ten in the nation. 

Not everything is positive when looking at the numbers, however. This is something that has to be mentioned because it jumps out on tape as well. Williams tends to hold on to the ball too long in the pocket. This is evident on tape and proven by the data at PFF, where he ranked worst in the nation at the time to throw. This is not a big deal at the college level, but something that will be unacceptable in the NFL. Fortunately, Williams still has time to improve this aspect of his already great game. 

The Tape

Arm Strength

Being a quarterback, most analysis should start with arm talent. Williams has a big arm! He has the strength to make throws across all areas of the field. In this All-22 clip against Stanford, we can see the power on full display. This bomb travels from the 15-yard line on one side of the field to the 25-yard line on the other. That is a full 60 air yards!

Arm Angles

A quarterback who can throw at multiple arm angles is much harder to deal with as a defense. Some quarterbacks can throw the ball ‘around’ rushing defenders. This is extremely frustrating for the defense because it makes the ball almost impossible to bat down. Examples of this are littered all over Williams’ tape. 

Off Platform Throws

Off-platform throws are a more ‘trendy’ attribute for the modern quarterback. We all remember the highlights of Patrick Mahomes throwing while diving to avoid contact. These throws occur when the quarterback scrambles and does not have time to establish a base. It is a true test of arm strength. A test that Williams passes with flying colors. 

Breaks Tackles With Ease

The 2022 draft class was highlighted by a quarterback whose main concern was frame size. I am happy to report that it will not be an issue in the months leading up to the 2023 draft. Williams measures in at a comfortable 215 pounds and has room to grow. He cannot be taken down with an arm tackle; this highlight is a great example. Also, a reminder, this was his first college game where he came in halfway as a true freshman. 

Questionable Decision Making

Not everything on tape is perfect for Williams. There are various times he makes questionable decisions where he relies on his arm talent to force balls into windows and throw lanes. This was one example from his game with Washington State, but to be honest, there were at least three other clips similar to this one that did not end up in an interception from this game. 

Sells RPO Well

This trait may not translate well to the NFL and will be very scheme-dependent, but Williams sells the Run Pass Option extremely well. He keeps defenders honest because they must respect his legs. This could be a deadly part of his game at the next level with the right offensive coordinator.

High Football IQ

Everyone knows the classic Aaron Rodgers ‘free-play’ trick. Well, the good news is that Williams can do this as well. In this clip from the Washington State game, he can recognize that the defense jumped offside. Once that happens, there is only one place to go with the ball, the endzone!

Scrambles With Eyes Downfield

Many mobile quarterbacks run into the trap of giving up on the passing game once they decide to bail from the pocket. The nice thing about Williams is that despite being deadly on the ground, he does not give up on passing being the main goal of a play call. While maneuvering out of the pocket, he keeps his eyes downfield, scanning for receivers before pulling the ball down at the last second. This is one of the reasons we see quarterbacks like Mahomes making such great throws out of ‘broken’ plays.

What To Expect In 2023

When comparing tape from Williams’ time in Oklahoma in 2021 to his time in USC in 2022, we see improvement in many areas of his game. Two notable areas are his base and his quick release. I am confident that he will also continue to improve in 2023. USC has another great squad for 2023, ranked as pre-season number four according to ESPN, and will be looking to make another playoff push. Whether or not they make it that far, we will see Williams face off against some great defenses. The USC schedule includes other pre-season top-25 teams, including Washington, Notre Dame, Utah, and Oregon. We will get plenty of chances to see Williams on the big stage.


Be sure to check back often as I continue my Summer Scouting Series! Subscribe to the #NerdHerd, where you get exclusive content, dynasty/rookie rankings, and DynastyGM! If you want 15% off  ANY SUBSCRIPTION, USE PROMO CODE “LUNA” or CLICK HERE.

Be sure to check back often, as I will cover all fantasy-relevant positions. For more content like this, follow me on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!

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