It’s Official: Chicago Bears select Caleb Williams with No. 1 overall pick in NFL Draft

DETROIT — It’s official Bears fans. University of Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams is the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, cementing him as the latest rookie signal caller in Chicago charged with ushering in a new era for the franchise.

Williams comes to Chicago heralded by many as the most talented quarterback prospect since the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Clemson-alum Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and at least one NFL draft analyst saying he’s the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012.

In three seasons spent playing at USC and the University of Oklahoma, Williams compiled 120 total touchdowns — Tops in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) over that time period — Which included his 2022 Heisman Trophy-winning campaign with the Trojans, where Williams threw for 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns and five interceptions, to go with another 382 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground.

For most of the 2024 offseason, speculators across the National Football League took in all of the honors, accolades and adoration paid to Williams and viewed it as a sign him being made the No. 1 overall pick by the Bears was an almost foregone conclusion — A conclusion that came with plenty of bread crumbs left behind, making a trail pointing toward the inevitable selection.

Bears brass opted against a reboot of their entire coaching staff at the end of the 2023 NFL regular season, and instead kept head coach Matt Eberflus in place. What followed was an extensive overhaul of the offensive coaching staff beneath him.

The team brought in quarterback revivalist and Sean McVay coaching tree product Shane Waldron to fill the role of offensive coordinator some three months ago.

After arriving at Halas Hall, Waldron worked to fill out the rest of his staff with a number of coaches he crossed paths with while working for the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams — Kerry Joseph as quarterbacks coach, Thomas Brown as passing game coordinator and Chad Morton as running backs coach, just to name a few.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: New Bears OC Shane Waldron confident in adaptability of his offensive system

During his three-year tenure as offensive coordinator with the Seahawks, Waldron oversaw an offense that placed fifth in the NFL in passing play % during that timeframe (62.7%), and helped quarterback Geno Smith throw for 4,281 yards and 30 touchdowns on his way to becoming the 2022 Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.

With the offensive coaching staff in place, General manager Ryan Poles went to work in free agency and the trade market to improve each position group on that side of the ball.

Poles negotiated free agency deals with skill position players like pro bowl running back D’Andre Swift and tight end Gerald Everett, while also trading for pro bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen.

“I just think I’m friendly for the quarterback because I’ll be in the right spots,” Allen said two days after being acquired by the Bears. “I know how to communicate with him and my body language is solid, too.”

Four days after that, Allen made a surprise appearance in Los Angeles for Williams and USC’s pro day.

BEARS FREE AGENCY COVERAGE: Bears agree to terms with Swift, Everett, several other free agents

Along the offensive line, Poles brought in three fresh faces to provide much needed depth and versatility with the signings of Matt Pryor and Coleman Shelton, and the trade for Ryan Bates from the Buffalo Bills.

Then came the trade that blazed a polarizing trail of debate throughout the Bears’ fanbase.

Chicago traded away incumbent starting quarterback Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers back in mid-March, all but cementing the fact there was a new dawn on the horizon of Bears football, and that dawn was Williams.

Once Top 30 visits for prospects rolled around, the only quarterback the Bears brought in was Williams, and the former Trojan QB returned the favor, taking just one team visit during his pre-draft process — A trip to Halas Hall in north suburban Lake Forest.

Poles told ESPN’s Courtney Cronin the Bears arranged a dinner near team facilities for Williams and players in leadership positions on the Bears’ roster in early April.

Walking away from the event, Poles said it was important to get feedback from guys who are the driving forces behind the culture inside Chicago’s locker room, and their feedback reinforced feedback the team had already received on the No. 1 overall pick.

“Really intelligent guy,” Poles said. “[Williams] came across as a really good teammate, easy to talk to, down to earth. 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. I think the biggest thing is, does he fit in our culture and what we’re trying to do? All signs were that he does, so that was [a] positive.”

NFL fans in Chicago will get their first taste of seeing Williams in Bears gear when the team hosts their annual post-draft rookie minicamp during the first half of May, which will take place either on May 3-6, or May 10-13.

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