Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye make it four NFL drafts with quarterbacks going 1-3

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the Chicago Bears with the first overall pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

DETROIT — Caleb Williams is heading to the Windy City, aiming to become the franchise quarterback Chicago has sought for decades.

The Bears selected Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night after deciding weeks ago to bank on the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner from USC.


The Washington Commanders followed up by taking 2023 Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels from LSU and the New England Patriots took North Carolina’s Drake Maye at No. 3, making it the fourth draft with quarterbacks going with the first three picks.

It matched 2021 (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance), 1971 (Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, Dan Pastorini) and 1999 (Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith).

The Arizona Cardinals snapped the trend, choosing Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth pick. The Los Angeles Chargers opened the Jim Harbaugh era by taking Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt instead of giving Justin Herbert a No. 1 wide receiver to replace Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

The New York Giants then snatched up LSU receiver Malik Nabers at No. 6.

Wearing a navy suit with silver accents, Williams swiftly walked on stage and screamed “Woooo! Yeah!” before giving Roger Goodell a bear hug, careful not to squeeze too hard because the NFL commissioner had back surgery three weeks ago.

Rap icon Eminem walked on stage in a Lions sweatshirt and cap shortly after Goodell to kick off the night. The Motor City native riled up the fans before turning it over to Lions stars Jared Goff, Aidan Hutchinson, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.

St. Brown led them in chanting “Jar-ed Goff!” and Johnson kept it short: “Whaddup doe?”

An estimated crowd of 150,000, many wearing their Honolulu blue Lions jerseys, filled the streets surrounding the draft theater and turned the NFL’s biggest offseason event into a giant party.

Williams is the third quarterback Chicago has selected in the first round in the past eight years. Mitch Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, lasted four seasons. Justin Fields, the 11th pick in 2021, was traded away for a conditional sixth-round pick after three seasons.

The 22-year-old Williams is tasked with turning the Bears into a winner after years of futility. Chicago has had just two winning seasons since its most recent playoff victory in the 2010 season.

Williams was the clear front-runner in a quarterback-rich draft that includes Daniels, Maye and J.J. McCarthy. The Bears didn’t meet with any other QBs and Williams didn’t visit any other teams.

He impressed his future team over dinner with several Bears players last month, showing them he’s more substance than Hollywood style.

“It was good for them to be able to go back to the (front office) and speak on how I am instead of all the stuff that everybody sees every day on me,” Williams said Wednesday.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles was convinced Williams was the right choice after receiving positive feedback from the veterans.

“He came across as a really good teammate, easy to talk to, down to earth,” Poles said this week. “We’ve talked through this process about the whole Hollywood thing. He’s all ball, wants to work, wants to get better, wants to win as a team. That’s the No. 1 thing for him on top of being successful. So I think the biggest thing is: Does he fit with our culture and what we’re trying to do? And all signs were that he does, so that’s a positive.”

Williams has lofty goals. He’s talked about playing 20 years for one team and chasing Tom Brady’s record of seven Super Bowl titles. The Bears only have won it once following the 1985 season.

A dual-threat player with a strong arm and ability to improvise, Williams threw 93 touchdown passes and ran for 27 scores in three seasons at Oklahoma and USC.

The Bears are the only NFL franchise that hasn’t had a quarterback throw for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns in a season. They passed up on Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud last year and traded the No. 1 pick to Carolina in a blockbuster deal only to get the top choice this year after the Panthers went 2-15.

The 23-year-old Daniels, who played five seasons at Arizona State, gives the Commanders a potential franchise QB after leading the nation in total offense last season with 4,946 yards. A do-it-all player, Daniels ranked fifth with 3,812 yards passing and with 40 touchdowns.

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