What Bears Fans Have to Worry About: Caleb Williams Rookie Struggles

Analysis: It's normal for most rookie QBs to struggle, even No. 1 picks, but the Bears can't really afford to have this happen with Caleb Williams.
Caleb Williams can't afford average for a rookie first-rounder, after all of the hype for his status as No. 1 player in the draft.
Caleb Williams can't afford average for a rookie first-rounder, after all of the hype for his status as No. 1 player in the draft. / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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Last in a series looking a potential Bears troubles

The greatest worry Bears fans can have about Caleb Williams is that he is your average first-round quarterback or average first pick of the draft.

Williams can't afford average anything after the assessments all across the scouting world calling him the best college passer to come into the league since possibly Andrew Luck in 2012. If he can't afford it, neither can the coaching staff.

The possibility Williams will struggle through his rookie year won't even be considered here, as it might be enough to set off some sort of national Bears fan panic.

At this point, there is no need to think worse of him, though. Then again, he hasn't been facing a live NFL pass rush.

"I think that Caleb is a talent, a very good talent," Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. "His game will go to where it needs to be."

So far they've had him going against the first-team defense most of the time at minicamp and OTAs, or at least the first-teamers who are available. It will continue next month at training camp.

"I want him to see that in front of him, the windows closing, the variation of what we do on defense, and I want him to see that day in and day out so that when he gets to play somebody else it will look, 'OK, I've been there done that,' " Eberflus said. "That's how we're going to keep it.

"He's done really good. He’s progressed all the way across and hit guys. He's progressed to open spaces in his first two progressions and dotted guys. I think it's been really good."

It needs to continue when Williams arrives because a coach in his third year of a rebuild, without a single winning record, is in a precarious situation. Logically, Eberflus needs the wins and a defense is only going to get them so far.

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The build-up for Williams' arrival has been too great to ponder the possibility he'll be only average in his the first year, but there is always the possibility he would improve if he does struggle.

Josh Allen posted a 67.9 passer rating as a rookie with 10 TD throws and 12 interceptions. Improvement is always possible. However, the hype train can cause quite a derailment so something just average would be a disappointment for Williams.

If Williams is only average for all the 39 first-round quarterbacks drafted since Cam Newton came into the league in 2011, his numbers would look like this: 2,355 yards passing on 217 of 366 or 59.2%. He would have 12.8 touchdown passes and 9.4 interceptions. And he would own a passer rating of 78.4. He'd come in at 6.44 yards per attempt. 

We'll go back only as far as Newton in 2011 for the sake of relevancey because the game changes too much\.

Williams is much more than a first-round pick and as the No. 1 pick overall a different standard must be met. It's actually not that much better than what first-rounders overall put up. The first pick does get more attempts to make good as a rookie because teams invest so heavily when they're taking a QB No. 1. Williams is going to play from Day 1 when some first-rounders will watch, like Michael Penix Jr. and possibly J.J. McCarthy.

The average No. 1 overall pick since 2011 has completed 296 of 494 (59.9%) for 2,963.6 yards with 17.1 TD passes to 12.8 interceptions as a rookie. The average passer rating for the first pick then is 78.4. They've averaged 6.0 yards per attempt.

So in many ways, the top overall pick does not live up to the other passers, but then again, as mentioned, they get more throws this drives down averages.

C.J. Stroud's 100.8 passer rating, his 23 TD passes to only five interceptions and 8.2 yards per attempt would be the top end, possibly even unattainable numbers considering what average first-rounders have done.

Then again, Williams has been set up for success while other first-rounders go to teams mired in mediocrity or worse. The average No. 1 QB selected since 2011 has won 4.6 starts and lost 9.3.

Of course, Williams and the Bears won't be able to accept number of that sort.

First-Round Passers

(Since 2011)

2011

Cam Newton (6-10 in starts) 310 of 516, 4,051 yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs

Jake Locker (0 starts) 34-of-66, 542 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs

Blaine Gabbert (4-10) 210-of-413, 2,214 yards, 12 TDs, 11 INTs

Christian Ponder (2-8) 158-of-291, 1,853 yards, 13 TDs, 13 INTs

2012

Andrew Luck (11-5) 339-of-627, 4,374 yards, 23 TDs, 18 INTs

Robert Griffin III (9-6) 258-of-393, 3,200 yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs

Ryan Tannehill (7-9) 282-of-484, 3,294 yards, 12 TDs, 13 INTs

Brandon Weeden (5-10) 297-of-517, 3,385 yards, 14 TDs, 17 INTs

2013

E.J. Manuel (4-6) 180-of-306, 1,972 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs

2014

Blake Bortles (3-10) 280-of-475, 2,908 yards, 11 TDs, 17 INTs

Johnny Manziel (0-2) 18-of-35, 175 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs

Teddy Bridgewater (6-6) 259-of-402, 2,919 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs\

2015

Jameis Winston (6-10) 312-of-535, 4,042 yards, 22 TDs, 15 INTs

Marcus Mariota (3-9) 230-of-370, 2,818 yards, 19 TDs, 10 INTs

2016

Jared Goff (0-7) 112-of-205, 1,089 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs

Carson Wentz (7-9) 379-of-607, 3,782 yards, 16 TDs, 14 INTs

Paxton Lynch (1-1) 49-of-83, 497 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

2017

Mitchell Trubisky (4-8) 196-of-130, 2,193 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs

Patrick Mahomes (1-0) 22-of-35, 284 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT

Deshaun Watson (3-3) 126-of-204, 1,699 yards, 19 TDs, 8 INTs

2018

Baker Mayfield (6-7) 310-of-486, 3,725 yards, 27 TDs, 14 INTs

Sam Darnold (4-9) 230-of-414, 2,865 yards, 17 TDs, 15 INTs

Josh Allen (5-6) 169-of-320, 2,074 yards, 10 TDs, 12 INTs

Josh Rosen (3-10) 217-of-393, 2,278 yards, 11 TDs, 14 INTs

Lamar Jackson (6-1) 99-of-170, 1,201 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INTs

2019

Kyler Murray (5-10) 349-of-542, 3,722 yards, 20 TDs, 12 INTs

Daniel Jones (3-9) 284-of-459, 3,027 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTs,

Dwayne Haskins (2-5) 119-of-203, 1,365 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs

2020

Joe Burrow (2-7-1) 264-of-404, 2,688 yards, 13 TDs, 5 iNTs

Tua Tagovailoa (6-3) 186-of-290, 1,814 yards,11 TDs 5 INTs

Justin Herbert (6-9) 396-of-595, 4,336 yards, 31 TDs, 10 INTs

Jordan Love (DNP)

2021

Trevor Lawrence (3-14) 359-of-602, 3,641 yards 12 TDs, 17 INTs

Zach Wilson (3-10) 213-of-383, 2,334 yards, 9 TDs,11 INTs

Trey Lance (1-1) 41-of-71, 603 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs

Justin Fields (2-8) 159-of-270, 1,870 yards, 7 TDs, 10 INTs 6.9

Mac Jones (10-7) 352-of-521, 3,801, 22 TDs, 13 INTs

2022

Kenny Pickett (7-5) 245-of-389, 2,404 yards, 7 TDs, 9 INTs

2023

Bryce Young (2-14) 315-of-527, 2,877 yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs

C.J. Stroud (9-6) 319-of-499, 4,108 yards, 23 TDs, 5 INTs

Anthony Richardson (2-2) 50-of-84, 577 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.