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Coach Knows Ball: Caleb Williams 2024 NFL Draft Film Breakdown Of USC QB

Caleb Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, NFL Rookies, Draft Sleepers

Welcome to Coach Knows Ball, an NFL Draft series analyzing the top prospects in the 2024 class. I'm a college football coach with nine years of NCAA experience and have been scouting NFL Draft prospects for over 15 years. This series will give a deep dive into the film of some of the top players in this draft class, with detailed insight into the strengths, weaknesses, and projections of future NFL standouts.

Scouting NFL draft prospects is about projecting translatable traits. There is often overlap between translatable traits and college performance, but there's a reason many top college players are not considered legitimate professionals. For example, a wide receiver being able to get in and out of breaks efficiently will not change from college to pro. On the flip side, an edge rusher who got most of his sacks due to hustle or missed offensive line assignments may not have shown translatable traits on film.

The film clips used in this series show the positive and negative traits of each pro prospect. Reading this article will give you a more in-depth look into each player with actual in-game visual evidence. We will kick off our Coach Knows Ball scouting series with USC QB Caleb Williams.
 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

Caleb Williams Rookie Profile

Caleb Williams is one of the most heralded college QB prospects of this decade. He started his career at Oklahoma and followed coach Lincoln Riley to Southern California, where he went 18-8 in two seasons. In 2022, Williams won the Heisman Trophy, putting up 4,537 passing yards, 42 touchdown passes, and just five interceptions. In 2023, he only threw for 30 touchdowns and lost five of his last six starts. He did, however, improve his completion percentage and yards per attempt.

The USC offense had some issues this past season, and there have been rumors about Williams' role in losing five of his last six games. In this series, we will focus on the film and judge each player based on what they did on the field. Let's dive in.

 

Special Traits

Playing quarterback is more art than science. Executing plays in the structure of the offense as drawn up on the whiteboard is part of the job, but it's rare that plays develop exactly how they are installed. Creativity is one of the most important traits for quarterbacks transitioning to the pro game, especially as it pertains to early-career performance. It will take thousands of reps and a lot of experience before a QB has mastery of his offense.

Caleb Williams' ability to create out of structure undoubtedly translates to the pro game. He possesses a rare mix of athleticism, twitchiness as an escape artist, balance, and the ability to throw accurately from different platforms and arm angles.

Williams is above average when it comes to that buzzword "arm talent." His arm is strong enough to drive the ball down the field, and his strong base allows him to rip the ball to all levels of the field in compromising positions, facing pressure, or on the run. He may be the best on-the-run passer I've ever scouted.

Williams separates from a lot of other QB prospects in his ability to put a special touch on all types of throws, including fade balls in the red zone or layering passes over level-two linebackers on time.

The most underrated part of Williams' passing skill set is how he uses elite balance and core strength to fire strikes from unconventional starting points. For example, his sturdy build allows him to set his feet extremely quickly and get the ball out while being pressured or chased.

In the clip below, you can see Williams react to a missed block, lose sight of his receiver, and still deliver a perfect ball to a target he knew would have a one-on-one. Notice the quick release in the face of pressure and how the ball jumps out of his hand without him taking any step forward. Williams standing shorter than 6-foot-2 gives him a low center of gravity that contributes to his incredible balance.

In the clip below, Williams steps up in the pocket, scrambles to throw while staying behind the line of scrimmage, and delivers a seed while rolling left. The velocity of this ball is madness, and Williams shows unreal balance to be able to square his shoulders and rip it fast enough to where the defender can't close in time.

In the clip below, Williams shows his ability to throw on the run to his right. The receiver can't complete the catch, but this is a bullet placed perfectly. D.J. Moore could probably snag it.

While the clip above shows velocity, the clip below is an example of Williams using touch. His left tackle fails in protection, but Williams' escaping instincts kick in as he fades left and drops a dime in stride to his cross-runner.

When escaping from pressure, Williams has an uncanny ability to deceive defenders and get outside of them. He doesn't quite execute a crossover, it's more of a quick square-up hesitation and explosion out, using unreal twitch to escape.

In the clip below, Williams shows off his escape ability, instincts, and creativity, delivering a hook shot in the scramble drill. People underestimate how much of the game is played on second-reaction plays.

The clip below shows more of his patented hesitation, this time making a free Washington defender tumble to the ground. Williams finishes the play by knocking down the Washington DB. He's not physically imposing, but his balance and core strength shine on plays like this.

Washington went to the College Football Playoff National Championship game this year. The clip below shows Caleb Williams putting on a show against top-tier Division 1 athletes. Williams is a gifted passer but can make people miss and score touchdowns with his legs as well. This spin move is straight out of Madden.

Williams does an excellent job keeping his eyes up against pressure. He also has an innate sense of how to manipulate the pocket. The clip below is masterful. Williams works the play side of the passing concept, flips his eyes to the backside dig, all while evading pressure and moving in the pocket. He's able to somehow find an arm angle over the defender's hand to fit the ball into his third read.

 

In Structure

There are questions about Williams' ability to play from the pocket and make decisions within the structure of his offense. The USC offense had some issues this past season, and Williams' production dipped as a result. However, evaluating draft prospects is not about judging college performance, it's about projecting traits that translate to the next level. I have no doubt Williams can operate an NFL offense at a high level.

One detail that stood out to me watching Williams' film was that he drew a lot of offsides penalty-free plays a la Aaron Rodgers. USC did use claps as part of the cadence, but that's still a useful trait that can be good for a lot of hidden yardage and potential for huge plays. Owning the huddle and mastering the cadence is an underrated aspect of QB play.

Can Williams go through progressions? There is nothing in his film that suggests he is incapable. Will he forego the easy play to try to make something big happen at times? Sure. But in-structure decision-making and progressions can be taught and developed. Special creative instincts are less teachable.

In the clip below, you can see Williams stay in the pocket and go through a full field progression. Williams has two slants to his left and a snag concept to his right. He doesn't like his slants, so he flips his eyes to the boundary to read the snag side. Notre Dame covers the spot route and swing, leaving his only option as the one-on-one out (or more likely a corner that the WR flattened). Having the guts to throw that ball in what is basically a full-field quick game is pretty special.

The clip below shows the confidence Williams has in his arm. USC has a run play called, but the field receiver has an out route against off coverage. Throwing this to the field knowing he'll have to find an arm angle and drive the ball all the way out there shows special traits.

In the clip below, USC is running a deep cross from the slot receiver working towards the boundary. Williams' manipulation of the pocket and hitching up is beautiful. He delivers a strike with perfect placement that allows his receiver to run after the catch.

In the clip below, USC is running a Y-Leak concept that has the No. 3 receiver drag across the formation and sneak up the boundary numbers. Williams stays true to the play despite poor protection. He delivers an accurate ball while taking a big hit.

 

Ball Security and Transition Concerns

By far the biggest negatives in Williams' film are his terrible ball security habits. For someone who likes to move around a lot and create, his carelessness with the football needs to be corrected. He's going to fumble a lot in the NFL as the bullets get faster.

My concern with Williams playing too much hero ball is not that it won't translate or work. It's that when the defense does make the necessary play, which obviously will happen at times, is he going to lose the ball? Williams does not appear to have huge hands, as there are instances of him simply losing grip of the football.

In the clip below, Washington's defensive line does a good job of containing and pushing the pocket into Williams. Caleb's escape attempt fails, and worst of all he swings the ball outside the framework of his body as he's trying to get away. The result is a bad fumble.

The clip below is similar. Disturbingly, Williams brings the ball low and luckily does not lose possession. It would have made more sense for him to then eat it and take the sack to live for second down. Instead, he somehow loses the ball while being tackled.

Interceptions were not a huge weakness in Williams' career, aside from one game against Notre Dame where he threw three picks. His mistakes typically happen when he tries to do too much.

The clip below is a straight-up bad decision. Williams has an open receiver, but can't get to him because the pressure forces him to the left. He's able to muscle the ball over the middle, but the backside safety does an unbelievable job of undercutting the No. 1 tight split receiver.

If Williams' on-field game fails to translate, it will likely be because his tendency to run around and look for big plays leads to mistakes. Is he a special enough athlete to make NFL defenders look silly chasing him around? If the answer is no, there will likely be some growing pains as he learns to play in structure more than he had to in college.

 

NFL Outlook

Caleb Williams has all the traits of an NFL franchise QB, including a big arm and the athleticism to escape and make plays with his legs. His ability to pass accurately from all different arm angles and body positions is special. Williams thrives out of structure, using creativity and instincts to move the ball and hit big plays. His internal clock and ability to keep his eyes downfield make it likely that he will only get better in structure as well. The traits he shows on film make him one of the best QB prospects I've ever scouted and a potential superstar.

If you would like to read and watch some of my past film breakdowns, click on the links below.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more draft content in the coming days.



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