Even though Caleb Williams is the consensus favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, USC’s star quarterback may not be so eager to turn pro if he doesn’t like the situation he would be walking into.
Carl Williams, Caleb’s father, told Sam Schube of GQ that his son could return to school if he feels uncomfortable with the team that might select him:
“The funky thing about the NFL draft process is, he’d almost be better off not being drafted than being drafted first. The system is completely backwards,” he says. “The way the system is constructed, you go to the worst possible situation. The worst possible team, the worst organization in the league—because of their desire for parity—gets the first pick. So it’s the gift and the curse. I mean, I’ve talked to Archie Manning—his career was shot because he went to a horrible organization. I’ve talked to Lincoln [Riley], and Kyler [Murray] struggled because of where he was drafted. Baker [Mayfield] struggled mightily because of where he was drafted. The organizations matter. … He’s got two shots at the apple. So if there’s not a good situation, the truth is, he can come back to school.”
It’s rare that first-round quarterbacks go into a situation that’s built for success right away. Many of the top signal-callers in the NFL right now were selected by teams that were already good and traded up to get them (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson) or at least weren’t so bad to be picking No. 1 overall (Justin Herbert, Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts).
There are certainly exceptions to his rule. The Jacksonville Jaguars were a mess before Trevor Lawrence arrived as the No. 1 pick in 2021 and became a joke during his rookie season because of everything that happened with Urban Meyer as head coach, but they quickly turned things around last season after bringing in Doug Pederson.
The Cincinnati Bengals seemed lost at sea before they took Joe Burrow with the top pick in 2020. He has led them to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances and a berth in Super Bowl 55 in his first three seasons.
The Arizona Cardinals are widely believed to be the worst team in the NFL going into this season. They haven’t officially named a starting quarterback for Week 1 with veteran journeyman Joshua Dobbs battling fifth-round rookie Clayton Tune.
Given the current state of the Cardinals roster and organization, it’s easy to understand why they wouldn’t be attractive to a player like Williams. They have unproven first-timers at head coach (Jonathan Gannon) and general manager (Monti Ossenfort).
Caleb previously addressed the possibility that this may not be his final season at USC. He told ESPN’s Pete Thamel it’s “going to be an in-the-moment decision” when it does happen.
While it’s not uncommon for prospects to hedge in an attempt to keep their options open, it’s rare that a top player doesn’t declare for the draft as soon as they are eligible.
Eli Manning and John Elway are two famous examples of players who declared for the draft even though they didn’t want to play for the team that had the No. 1 overall pick.
Both players wound up being taken with the top pick by the club they didn’t want to play for, but they were later traded to a different franchise.
Things are a little bit different in this era because college athletes have the ability to earn money through NIL deals.
On3.com gives Williams a $2.3 million NIL valuation for this season. Even though that is a vast sum of money, it’s only a fraction of what he would earn in his first year on a rookie contract as the No. 1 overall pick.
Bryce Young, the top pick in the 2023 NFL draft, signed a fully guaranteed four-year, $37.96 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. He’s going to earn $6.9 million as a rookie between his signing bonus ($6,150,922) and base salary ($750,000).
This content was originally published here.