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USC Quarterback Caleb Williams Is Positioning Himself as a Prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft

Plus more notes on Week 12 of the college football season, including thoughts on Michigan RB Blake Corum and Georgia lineman Jalen Carter.

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The last few years, my Six From Saturday notes have been included at the bottom of my MMQB column on Monday mornings. This year, they’ll be published as a separate post each week. Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s college action, geared mostly toward what should be of interest to NFL fans.

1) On Saturday night, I tweeted a true wow throw from USC QB Caleb Williams—one in which he rolled to his left and somehow let loose on a rope of a throw that probably traveled 30 yards in the air and cut through a slew of UCLA defenders to get to receiver Kyle Ford. Now, as we’ve been through here before, there are plenty of guys who’ve had these sorts of flashes early in their college careers, only to flame out before becoming draft-eligible. And the truth is very few NFL types have actually studied Williams, since he’s not draft-eligible until 2024. (I asked one AFC exec who’s watched him play, but hadn’t studied him, and he’d say only, “He can really sling it.”)

USC QB Caleb Williams goes back to throw a pass against UCLA.

There is reason to be optimistic that what we’re seeing from Williams is real, and the reason is we have proof. For a lot of these young quarterbacks, a lot of exposure can lead to, well, getting exposed. Conversely, Williams already has 496 pass attempts in two conferences under his belt. By comparison, Justin Fields had 618 at Georgia and Ohio State; and Cam Newton had just 292 in the SEC—between Florida and Auburn—and 628 total if you include junior college. So 22 games and 18 starts into Williams’s career—including more than 350 yards passing in four of his past five games, with a 33–3 TD-INT ratio for the season—is a really good sign that he should sustain this level of play next year and be well positioned for the 2024 draft.

2) It was tough seeing Michigan workhorse Blake Corum go down Saturday—he had an Illinois defender crash into his knee and went down right away, dropping the ball on his way to the ground. Corum came out dressed for the second half, but after one third-quarter carry, it was clear he couldn’t go, and that was it for his afternoon. Corum’s been the engine for Michigan’s offense, with six games of 25-plus carries, and he was on his way to a seventh before getting hurt Saturday.

Regardless of whether he can play against Ohio State on Saturday, or in any games after that, it seems like it’d be an easy call for him to go pro after an outstanding junior year. In a crowded 2023 running back class, his toughness and productivity will stand out—and put him in position to go inside the top 100-or-so picks if he runs well.

“I’d call him a mid-round pick because of his size [5'10", 210 pounds], and he might not run well, but he’s a good player,” one NFC exec says. “I like the vision, instincts, balance and body control. He runs hard. Good in the passing game, too, both catching and blocking.” In other words, the combine will be vital for one of the best players of this college football season.

3) Speaking of injuries, it was really tough seeing quarterback Hendon Hooker go down on Saturday night with a torn ACL during Tennessee’s loss at South Carolina. My sense is the sixth-year senior, who’ll be 24 on draft day, was trending toward being a Day 2 pick (I heard Geno Smith and Case Keenum comps). His injury, of course, could affect that—because you could be talking about him losing a year of his rookie contract, which is big if you project him to be a quality backup and not a starter. One of the benefits of taking him high would be getting affordable quarterback depth.

4) We said a lot of nice things about North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye last week, and I’d stand by a lot of them—he’s still someone to keep an eye on for 2024. But what happened Saturday for Maye against Georgia Tech (he threw for 202 yards, a pick and no touchdowns as the Heels blew a 17–0 lead to a team with an interim coach) is a good way to drive home the point we made on Williams. Maye will be fine, but over time, you get tested in different ways, and Maye, shy of 400 college attempts and in his 11th start, found that out in an ugly home loss that almost certainly eliminated the Heels from the College Football Playoff picture.

5) Georgia DL Jalen Carter isn’t the flashiest prospect—but he’s been dominant week to week for another stout Bulldogs defense, was again against Kentucky and deserves a lot of credit for holding serve near the top of the 2023 draft through another season. Last year, I had a number of execs tell me they thought Carter was probably the best prospect on last year’s defense, which produced five first-round picks, including the first pick. But when we reported on the NFS rankings having Carter at No. 1 over Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., a lot of people were surprised (or even seemed offended). Now? I think it might be a toss-up between those two.

6) This will be a nervous week for me. But it’ll be worth every second of it so long as C.J. Stroud, Marvin Harrison Jr., JT Tuimoloau, Ryan Day and the rest of the Buckeyes settle the score. Go Bucks.

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