NFL Draft: Caleb Williams goes No. 1 to Bears, who hope they finally have a star QB

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner is the future in Chicago

Any Chicago Bears fan younger than 73 years old has never watched their team field an All-Pro quarterback.

The last time the Bears had the first-team All-Pro quarterback was 1950. It was Johnny Lujack, who threw four touchdowns and 21 interceptions that season. Times have changed a bit.

If Caleb Williams isn't a superstar at quarterback, Bears fans will have to wonder if the franchise is cursed at the position.

Bears fans see a bright future with Caleb Williams as Chicago's new QB. (Yahoo Sports)
Bears fans see a bright future with Caleb Williams as Chicago's new QB. (Yahoo Sports)

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Williams gives the Bears hope of finally — and we really mean finally — landing a star quarterback. He'll be joined in Chicago by Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze, whom the Bears selected with the No. 9 pick in Thursday's draft.

Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner at USC, was the first overall pick of the NFL Draft on Thursday night. He was in attendance at the draft in Detroit, wearing a navy blue suit to mirror the Bears' colors. It was the first time the Bears have selected first overall in the draft since 1947, when they took halfback Bob Fenimore. The Bears had the first overall pick last year and traded it to the Carolina Panthers, who sent the Bears their 2024 first-round pick. That pick became No. 1 overall when the Panthers went 2-15.

Caleb Williams was the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Draft, selected by the Chicago Bears. (Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images)
Caleb Williams was the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Draft, selected by the Chicago Bears. (Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images)

The Bears weren't trading out of the No. 1 pick this time. Williams is an elite prospect at quarterback. And maybe he'll be the best Bears quarterback in decades. The bar isn't high.

It's not just that the Bears haven't had an All-Pro quarterback since 16 years before the first Super Bowl. They haven't had many quarterbacks come close.

The Bears' inability to figure out a modern passing game — and that spans many eras — is one of the most baffling trends in sports history. And it stems from continuous failure to land a great quarterback.

Since 1963, only two Bears quarterbacks have even made the Pro Bowl. Jim McMahon made it in 1985. Mitchell Trubisky got the nod in 2018, as a replacement when Jared Goff couldn't play in the game. That's an incredibly short list for six decades.

Some of the other stats are unbelievable. The Bears have never had a quarterback throw for 4,000 yards in a season. Jordan Love, in his first year as the Green Bay Packers' starter, threw for 4,159 yards last season. There have been 227 4,000-yard seasons in NFL history and the Bears don't have one. Johnny Morris is the Bears' all-time leading receiver with 5,059 yards, by far the lowest high mark of any NFL franchise. Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings beat that mark in his 52nd career game.

To say the Bears are starved for a star quarterback is an understatement. It's a franchise that still speaks wistfully of Sid Luckman, a Hall of Famer whose rookie season was 1939.

Williams has a chance to change all that history, and make Bears fans forget the decades of longing for above-average play at the game's most important position.

Williams shouldn't miss. He had a very good freshman season at Oklahoma, then transferred to USC and became a star. During his Heisman Trophy-winning season, he threw for 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns and five interceptions. His numbers were mostly down last season and USC struggled as a team, but NFL teams weren't dissuaded. It was clear for more than a year he'd be the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft for more than a year. When the Bears locked up the first overall pick, they made the decision to move on from Justin Fields to start fresh with Williams. Fields, a 2021 first-round pick, was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

USC logoUSC logo
Caleb Williams
2022 Heisman Trophy winner
Comp Pct

Williams was intriguing as a prospect for many reasons: he has exceptional arm strength, an uncanny ability to extend plays, he can make jaw-dropping throws off platform but can still operate with efficiency from the pocket. There are some concerns about him going off script too often, but he might have been pressing too hard last season on a USC team that had many holes.

All-Pro quarterbacks have come from many different backgrounds through the years. There are undrafted gems like Kurt Warner, late-career surges out of nowhere like Rich Gannon, No. 1 overall picks like Peyton Manning and sixth-round picks like Tom Brady. The Bears have tried all avenues since 1950 and came up short every time.

This time, the Bears get a shot with an elite prospect selected with the first overall pick of the draft. Williams goes to a team that made many strides late last season and added running back D'Andre Swift and receiver Keenan Allen this offseason in anticipation of drafting Williams.

Maybe Chicago will finally get to experience what it's like to have a star at quarterback.