Everybody has already penciled in Caleb Williams as the favorite to go #1 overall in the draft, most likely to the Chicago Bears. It’s understandable. He has been a darling of the draft community for two years, starring at both Oklahoma and USC. He’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes, the best player in the league. The out-of-structure wizardry and outstanding arm talent make it a tantalizing combination. However, the draft has always shown that assuming anything in February would be ill-advised.
Field Yates covers the draft for ESPN. He’s spoken to plenty of scouts, executives, and coaches around the league. While he may not know what GM Ryan Poles will do in two months, he at least has a gauge of where things stand league-wide. This is where it gets interesting. He appeared on Waddle & Silvy for ESPN 1000 where he was asked if he had to make a bet, who would he have going #1. Yates stated that it would be Williams, but in his mind, it isn’t nearly as concrete as people think. This isn’t Trevor Lawrence in 2021 or Andrew Luck in 2012. Williams’ grip on that spot is far from secure.
If true, who is the biggest threat to unseat him? The name Yates mentioned isn’t who you’d think.
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For all the Caleb Williams hype, Jayden Daniels had the better year.
He won the Heisman trophy, and he did it against far stiffer competition in the SEC. His improvement as a passer is what stood out the most. Last season, he had 17 touchdowns and three interceptions for LSU. In 2023, he had 40 touchdowns and four interceptions. Critics will say that’s entirely thanks to the presence of Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr., two talented receivers. Here’s the thing. That receiving corps was just as talented in 2022 as last year. There is no way they were the entire difference. So much of that breakout year by the Tigers was Daniels’ own improvements as a passer, especially from the pocket.
That might not be enough for many in the league to overtake Caleb Williams as the #1 QB in this class. However, the only one it would have to convince is Poles. He likes resilient players. Daniels overcame a lot of adversity during his time at Arizona State and emerged as a star. He’s an elite athlete and made progress in necessary areas for the NFL level. If he showcases the mental traits Poles is looking for in interviews, it could set the stage for a stunner on draft night.