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Caleb Williams declares for 2024 NFL Draft with Bears on the clock at No. 1

Caleb Williams declares for 2024 NFL Draft with Bears on the clock at No. 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Caleb Williams kept the Bears and the rest of the NFL waiting for as long as he could, but on Monday, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick officially declared for the 2024 NFL Draft.

Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy Winner, leaves USC after throwing 72 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions over the past two seasons.

The 22-year-old has been penciled in as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft since he burst onto the scene as a freshman at Oklahoma in 2021. Williams is only 6-foot-1, but he is an elite playmaker with the accuracy and arm talent to drop dimes into tight windows. His improvisational ability is rare, but he is more than a hero-ball quarterback. Williams is as good in structure as he is out of it, and it's the reason he's expected to be the Bears' selection with the No. 1 overall pick on April 25.

"He's a generational talent," one NFC scout told NBC Sports Chicago. "They don't make them like him. What Caleb Williams can do -- that probably only comes around once every 20 or 30 years. If you're lucky enough to be holding that lottery ticket, you don't give it up."

The Bears and general manager Ryan Poles face a franchise-defining decision this offseason.

Quarterback Justin Fields showed growth in Year 3, but the Bears landed the No. 1 overall pick via the Carolina Panthers and now must decide if Fields, Williams, or perhaps North Carolina's Drake Maye is best suited to lead them forward.

Poles also held the No. 1 pick last offseason but opted to trade it to the Panthers for a haul that included wide receiver DJ Moore and Carolina's 2024 first-round pick, which is likely to become Williams.

Poles could have drafted C.J. Stroud last year but believed it was in the franchise's best interest to sell the pick for a host of assets and give Fields another season to develop.

This year, Poles is going to take a more wide-open approach.

"In terms of our process, I know there's going to be a lot of questions on Justin, there's going to be a lot of questions on the draft process, we are in information gathering mode right now," Poles said at Halas Hall on Wednesday. "We are going to turn every stone to make sure that we are going to make a sound decision for our organization. I did think Justin got better. I think he can lead this team. But at the same time, there is a unique situation. I have to look, and our staff has to look at everything, and that's exactly what we're going to do."

There's a good chance that process leads them to Williams.