Why Williams is the favorite to go No. 1 over Maye, Daniels

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams throws at the school’s NFL Pro Day, Wednesday, March 20, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

The top quarterback prospects have all completed their pro days. USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, and LSU’s Jayden Daniels wrapped up their public workouts this week. Now, top NFL prospects will participate in visits with individual teams at team facilities.

Williams remains the favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick. The Bears hold the top pick in this year’s draft and are poised to head in a new direction at the quarterback position.

So why is Williams such a heavy favorite to become the top pick? Here’s a look at how he compares to his peers.

Caleb Williams

Every quarterback prospect behind Williams has specific flaws and concerns. Williams is not a perfect prospect, but observers are pretty much grasping at straws trying to find anything negative to say about Williams. He paints his nails? He’s emotional? The most real criticism might be that he can be too aggressive when plays go off script.

Williams has a rare combination of arm talent, athleticism and feel for the game. Observers want to dock him for playing hero ball, but in 2023 he pretty much had to do that to make up for a porous USC defense that was giving up gobs of points.

Williams doesn’t get enough credit for how well he played in structure. He wouldn’t have won the 2022 Heisman Trophy if he couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t have thrown for 93 touchdowns over three college seasons if he couldn’t do it.

Williams is about 6-foot-1, depending on which measurement you trust. He was a shade over 6-1 at the combine and a shade under at his pro day. He weighed 217 pounds at pro day a week ago. He is not exceptionally tall for a quarterback, but he’s not so short as to be concerning. Bryce Young, at 5-10, was an outlier among top draft picks. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson were shorter than Williams and still won Super Bowls. Williams’ thick build contrasts significantly with Young’s slight frame.

The only real concern is can he handle the pressure he’ll face in Chicago, and all signs point to the answer being yes.

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks to pass against Wake Forest during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
The Associated Press

Drake Maye

If you’re drafting for size, Maye is the go-to quarterback. At 6-4, 223 pounds, Maye has more or less the exact same build as Joe Burrow. He excels from the pocket and he also has an elite feel for where pressure is coming from.

Escaping the pocket and running isn’t his bread and butter, but he’s more athletic than some realize (he led North Carolina with 698 rushing yards in 2022). He has an innate ability to keep plays alive with his footwork.

Plus, he has a rocket for a right arm.

Forget that he’s coming from a North Carolina program that hasn’t won 10 games in nearly a decade. Maye had offers from Alabama, Clemson and Georgia coming out of high school, but the North Carolina native elected to stay home and play for the Tar Heels. He’s not some unknown quarterback who came out of nowhere during his last college season.

With Maye the question is can he play at a consistently high level? The traits are there. Most years, he might be the No. 1 overall pick based on traits alone. But no quarterback is likely to leapfrog Williams. Compared to Daniels, Maye is more of a traditional build for a quarterback.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) goes through passing drills during LSU’s NCAA football pro day in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Jayden Daniels

Daniels is the top dual-threat quarterback this year. He threw for more than 3,800 yards and rushed for more than 1,100 on his way to the 2023 Heisman Trophy. At 6-3, 210 pounds, he’s much more slim than Maye and Williams. His playing style also lends itself to taking some big hits when he’s on the run. Durability is a legitimate concern.

With Maye and Daniels it really is a matter of a team’s preference in style. Would the Commanders, who have the No. 2 overall pick, prefer a traditional big-bodied passer with a rocket arm or would they prefer elite athleticism with a good enough arm?

It all depends what new Commanders general manager Adam Peters and new coach Dan Quinn want.

“It’s a great feeling if I’m blessed enough to be picked that high,” Daniels said of the Commanders following his pro day Wednesday. “Obviously, what they’re doing, they’ve got a new regime.”

But simply defining Daniels as a running quarterback doesn’t show the whole picture. He was an elite college passer who showed significant growth over his five college seasons (including three at Arizona State).

What’s next?

If the Bears are destined to take Williams with the No. 1 pick, that gives the Commanders a lot of power at No. 2. With a new GM and a new coach, nobody really knows what they’re going to value. New offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has won with both kinds during his time as a college coordinator and head coach.

Every other quarterback-needy team is looking at the Commanders. The Patriots at No. 3, the Vikings at No. 11, the Broncos at No. 12 and the Raiders at No. 13 will all have to adjust based on what Washington does.

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