The Fantasy Football Implications of First-Overall Selection Caleb Williams

Apr 25, 2024
The Fantasy Implications of First-Overall Selection Caleb Williams

With the first overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Caleb Williams. The former USC Trojan will help to continue an offensive ascension on his new team, offering the Bears their first look at a franchise quarterback in decades. On top of the real-life implications of having a top-flight option throwing the ball, Williams will offer the type of fantasy upside for his pass-catchers that we’ve been yearning for from a Chicago signal-caller.

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Caleb Williams Prospect Profile

Coming out of high school in the Washington D.C. area, Caleb Williams was a five-star recruit and the number seven recruit nationally in the 2021 recruiting class. It didn’t take long for the true freshman to see the field in college, as he would start seven games with the Oklahoma Sooners, throwing for nearly 2,000 yards, 21 touchdowns, and four interceptions. This would end up being his only year in Oklahoma, as he entered the transfer portal after head coach Lincoln Riley headed to USC, where the quarterback would join him for his following two seasons.

That turned out to be an incredible choice, as Williams accrued 8,000+ yards, 72 touchdowns, ten interceptions through the air, 1,100+ yards, and 16 more scores on the ground over the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Williams’ next-level ability to operate out of the structure of the play was a sight to behold throughout his college career and was all the more relevant in his final year when he was pressured on 151 dropbacks, the seventh-most among all 2024 draft-eligible quarterbacks.

Williams is more than simply an escape artist, though. He exhibits great arm strength in all areas of the field, whether on-platform or off. His ability to release the ball without a typical quarterback base has garnered comparisons to Jay Cutler, Jeff George, and —yes— Aaron Rodgers.

Creating out-of-the-pocket was a common throughline during Williams’ college career, and the numbers back it up. According to Sports Info Solutions, 62 college quarterbacks attempted at least 50 passes from outside the pocket last season. Williams ranked first in passing yards (825) and touchdowns (11) while ranking third in yards per attempt (9.4) and fifth in their adjusted passer rating metric (IQR - 127.1)

This is not to say that Caleb can’t just “run the damn ball” when he feels the need to take off, either. With all due respect to classmate Jayden Daniels, you could make an argument that he’s nearly the best scrambler in this draft class, even if he doesn’t exhibit the type of explosiveness that Daniels possesses. Over the course of a (healthy) year, there’s no doubt that Daniels will out-rush Williams, but in terms of keeping drives alive and popping for 15+ yards that inevitably break the defense’s hearts, the USC Trojan can carry the water. Think Patrick Mahomes without the waddle.

Williams ran for 90 first downs in his 2.5 years of playing time, including 27 touchdowns, and averaged nearly 40 yards per game. A nice little boost to his box scores at the next level, but more importantly, he shows the ability to keep drives alive, which is something we’ll be keeping an eye on for the fantasy assets around him in the very near future.

The potential downside case for Williams doesn’t seem wildly apparent at first glance, but there are some “on-schedule” issues that can be worked on, and hopefully, those can begin to be ironed out throughout training camp. According to PFF’s numbers, his 3.19 average time to throw topped all draft-eligible quarterbacks in 2023, as well as in 2022 (3.25).

Caleb Williams can make magic happen from almost every platform and every section of the field, but his coaches in the NFL are likely going to prefer him to take the easy plays every once in a while.

What To Expect from Caleb Williams and the Bears Offense in 2024

The typical question we have to answer in this situation —will X quarterback start Week 1?— is luckily completely out the window in this situation. The Bears were so far out on the potential “quarterback controversy” that they shipped Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a sixth-rounder, leaving only Tyson Bagent and Brett Rypien remaining in the QB room. Caleb Williams is starting Week 1 and each following week.

For the first time in what feels like forever, the team also does not have a logjam of below-average offensive line talent to rotate in and out ahead of the season, including left tackle Braxton Jones (2022 fifth-rounder), left guard Teven Jenkins (2021 second-rounder), and right tackle Darnell Wright (2023 first-rounder), recent selections who have helped prop the unit out of abject mediocrity. Adding in former Buffalo Bills center Ryan Bates during the offseason was one last piece of the puzzle, and Williams shouldn’t need to worry about playing in fear.

In preparation for this gift of a No. 1 draft pick from the Carolina Panthers, a trade for a center wasn’t the only move the Bears made through the pre-draft process. The floodgates opened the moment NFL Free Agency officially kicked off, and Chicago made it known that they were planning on insulating their eventual quarterback with as much talent as they could find on the open market. This included running back D’Andre Swift, tight end Gerald Everett, and a trade for veteran wide receiver Keenan Allen on the following day.

Caleb Williams, an atypical quarterback, isn’t likely to have the typical rookie impact on his offensive players’ fantasy aspirations. Williams and the core of this offense should operate at a level we don’t typically consider for quarterbacks learning as they go, which creates a solid fantasy floor, particularly for D.J. Moore and the aforementioned Allen.

At the time of writing, Moore is coming off of Underdog draft boards as the WR15 (23.8 ADP), while Allen is the WR26 (42.0 ADP). Williams himself is the QB12 (104.1 ADP), as drafters are clearly excited to see a high-level distributor in a Chicago Bears uniform for the first time in a long time.

The addition of Washington's Rome Odunze further elevates Williams's stock and gives him a true 3WR set to terrorize the rest of the NFC North. Odunze is currently coming off the board as the WR28 (45.2), and should be faded as of now, as he could have some issues seeing a vast majority of snaps in 2-WR sets, at least in the beginning of the season.

Bottom Line

  • Caleb Williams has the tools necessary to hit the ground running as a solid NFL and fantasy quarterback, with room to become much, much more.
  • The Bears should have an interesting offensive environment under Shane Waldron (previous three seasons with the Seahawks), and the team now has the quarterback to grease the wheels.
  • Williams’ supporting cast is one of the best we’ve seen in Chicago in some time, and if we can get full seasons out of the veterans, we should be in for a top-10 scoring offense.
  • Williams is being overdrafted in current Underdog drafts (QB12), even with consideration of his rushing floor. C.J. Stroud’s rookie season is leaving a great taste in people’s mouths, but we need to remember the amount of 2023 injuries to the quarterback position that propped up that outlier season. Williams has a great floor in the QB12-15 range, but his ceiling makes the QB12 price a little rich if you’re not stacking him in the same lineup.
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