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How does J.J. McCarthy compare to Caleb Williams? We asked a Washington Huskies defender

INDIANAPOLIS — Caleb Williams is widely considered the best quarterback prospect in the 2024 NFL draft, but one defensive back who played against Williams and J.J. McCarthy said the ex-Michigan quarterback is on par with Williams.

"I think he’s very close," Washington safety Dom Hampton told the Free Press at the NFL combine. "He’s throwing at the combine so you’re going to be able to see more of what he’s able to do. Just with the system that he had, he was handing the ball off a lot more often. He had good running backs, great O-line, so you’ll be able to see more of what he has to offer at the combine, but he can also throw the ball very well."

McCarthy is generally viewed as the No. 4 quarterback prospect in the draft behind Williams, LSU's Jayden Daniels and North Carolina's Drake Maye.

Williams is projected to go No. 1 overall to the Chicago Bears — or whoever they trade the pick to — while McCarthy could interest quarterback-needy teams like the Atlanta Falcons (No. 8), Minnesota Vikings (No. 11) and Denver Broncos (No. 12) in the top half of Round 1.

McCarthy was a two-year starter who led Michigan to the national championship last season, but attempted far fewer passes in his career (482) than Williams (1,099), Daniels (1,438) or Maye (952). He had the highest completion percentage (72.3%) of the top quarterback prospects last season, and tied Daniels, the Heisman Trophy winner, for the fewest interceptions (four).

"He’s an acquired taste, because when I watched him — first of all, you’re watching TV, and you’re like, 'Gosh, they don't ask him to do much,'" NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said last week. "They run the ball, they play great defense. He’ll manage the game and kind of get them through it and make a couple of plays here and there. But when you dig into the tape and you really watch it, and then you watch on third downs where they’ve got to throw the ball and they do put the ball in his hands, there’s a lot to like with him."

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Hampton, a three-year starter for Washington, had 10 tackles in the Huskies' November win over USC, 52-42, and 10 tackles and a pass breakup in Washington's 34-13 championship game loss to the Wolverines.

Williams was 27 of 35 passing for 312 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Washington. McCarthy was 10 of 18 for 140 yards with no TDs against the Huskies.

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Williams is considered one of the best quarterback prospects in recent years with a strong arm and dynamic running ability. Hampton said McCarthy is "more athletic than a lot of people give him credit for and accurate as well."

“They’re both very good quarterbacks, very talented," he said. "Caleb Williams is going to make you cover all 53 yards of the width of the field and he’s going to take deep shots, probably about 60-, 70-yard arm, so you definitely have to worry about the deep ball. Same with J.J., more off play action and getting our safeties coming downhill, so we had to deal with that in the national championship game, trying to stop the run with the combination of stopping the deep pass. But both quarterbacks are very talented."

Michigan fans! Celebrate the national title with our two commemorative books: "Blue Reign" and "Maize & Grand" —  order now! You can also buy commemorative wall art of the front page of the Detroit Free Press from the morning after U-M's historic championship.   

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: How J.J. McCarthy compares to Caleb Williams for NFL draft 2024