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Bears select USC QB Caleb Williams, Washington WR Rome Odunze in Round 1 of 2024 NFL Draft

The presumptive top pick for months, Caleb Williams is officially headed to the Windy City.

The Chicago Bears selected Williams with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on Thursday in Detroit.

Eight selections later, the Bears added to Williams' arsenal by selecting Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze with the No. 9 overall pick of the draft.

Heralded as a generational talent, the University of Southern California product boasts rare traits that made him the expected first pick of the draft since winning the Heisman Trophy in 2022.

Williams owns keen pocket awareness and the mobility to extend plays and make jaw-dropping splashes look pedestrian. The 6-foot-1 QB combines accuracy and velocity to reach any area of the field. He can throw from an array of arm angles to create lanes and possesses the ability to make plays off-platform. Williams' ability to deliver the pigskin with touch and accuracy, often layering the ball over defenders, translates ideally to the next level. His ability to read pressure, get the ball out quickly and threaten the defense with his mobility makes Williams a menace in the RPO game.

The 22-year-old signal-caller couples instinctual passing traits with dynamic playmaking ability with his feet. Williams avoids initial pressure, buys time and creates big plays on the ground. His athletic frame allows him to evade tacklers, run through smaller defenders and make opponents whiff in space, setting up home-run scampers. His running ability also makes him deadly in the red zone.

The vivacious passing talent and instinctive rushing ability made Williams a shoo-in top quarterback prospect.

It's not all roses and cherry blossoms for the Washington, D.C., native. Williams, like all rookie quarterbacks, is still developing. At times, he holds the ball too long, hunting for the big play. The tendency to seek out splash plays led to a load of sacks in college. Williams tends to lean on his rushing ability often instead of taking the easy checkdown. Like most rookies, he needs to avoid getting stuck on his No. 1 read, moving more swiftly through the progression. At the NFL level, where big-play hunters can wither on the vine, Williams must become more consistent remaining on schedule within the offense. He also needs to improve his ball security in the pocket and on the run after fumbling issues peaked in 2023.

The Bears are betting on Williams' extreme upside finally ending their string of futility at the quarterback position.

Not since the days of Sid Luckman have the Bears had a consistently dynamic signal-caller who was undoubtedly one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Even as Jim McMahon led the Bears to a Super Bowl victory, he wasn't a top-15 passer. Since the turn of the Millennium, Chicago has seen the likes of Jim Miller, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Jay Cutler, Mitchell Trubisky and, most recently, Justin Fields attempt to stop the generational string of substandard quarterback play that yarned its way from the 1950s.

There have been a few bright spots along the way, but never a long-term answer. The Bears' single-season passing record remains 3,838 yards, set in 1995 by Erik Kramer. In 2023 alone, 14 quarterbacks surpassed that figure.

Against this backdrop of positional impotence, Williams arrives as a bubbling wave of optimism off the shores of Lake Michigan.

Chicago thought it had its answer to the quarterback quandary when the Bears moved up to draft Fields in the first round in 2021. Fields showed promise, boasting electric running ability and improving as a passer in Year 3. Alas, injury issues coupled with Chicago netting the No. 1 overall pick thanks to last year's trade with the Carolina Panthers led to the club moving on from Fields this offseason.

Before the Bears traded Fields to Pittsburgh for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick, the Windy City harbored many debates over the path forward. Select Williams? Keep Fields and trade the No. 1 pick for a major haul? General manager Ryan Poles shipping Fields out of town -- for little return -- emphatically ended the chatter.

This is Williams' team going forward.

It's rare a No. 1 overall pick slides onto a seven-win team capable of competing off the bat.

Under head coach Matt Eberflus, the Bears showed signs of improvement down the stretch, including better play from the defensive side of the ball following the trade for Montez Sweat. The signing of D'Andre Swift also provides a reliable dual-threat veteran to the backfield. The offseason trade for Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen to pair with DJ Moore gives Williams a great veteran one-two combo to help the rookie transition, and the addition of Odunze gives Williams a third option he's familiar with.

Odunze arrives in the NFL after a stellar final season at Washington, where he caught 92 passes for an FBS-best 1,640 yards and 13 touchdowns as the top target in an explosive Huskies attack that powered them to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Those paying closer attention will note Odunze began his ascension a year earlier, when he caught 75 passes for 1,145 yards and seven scores, earning first-team All-Pac-12 Conference and third-team All-American honors.

Truly, though, 2023 was Odunze's breakout campaign, when he separated himself at the collegiate ranks as a high-level pro prospect worthy of first-round consideration. Thanks to his elite production, Odunze finished as one of two players to rank in the top 10 in the FBS in receiving yards in 2022 and 2023. The only other player in that group: Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr., the top receiver in the class for more than a year, who went at No. 4 to the Cardinals.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Odunze owns fantastic ball-tracking skills, which benefit him in every area of catching passes. He excels making contested catches and is a pure pylon producer, routinely winning jump balls with fantastic positioning, body control and hand strength, hauling in back-shoulder fades in the corners of end zones with the ability of a seasoned NFL veteran.

This blend of size and pure ability should make him an instant high-volume contributor in the NFL, where Odunze is built to withstand tighter coverage and still come out on top. He has room to improve, too, in the route-running department, and is already working on it by intensely studying one of the top route-runners, Raiders star Davante Adams. If he adds Adams' polish to his arsenal, the Bears' investment in him will pay off in droves.

The hiring of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron should work well with Williams' skill set. The former Seahawks OC displayed creativity in his design and play-calling the past three seasons in Seattle. He showed a willingness to adjust to his personnel and helped Geno Smith rejuvenate his career. Expect an uptick of RPOs from Waldron this season to take advantage of what Williams does well and give the rookie some easy reads. The pieces are in place for an entertaining offense in Chicago in 2024 -- a phrase that hasn't been written much in the past several decades.

In a league that revels in parity, annually spouting stats about quick turnarounds and clubs going from worst to first each campaign, the Bears could be set up to be the 2024 example. Much of that success will come down to how fast Williams takes off in Year 1.

Chicago has yearned for a game-changing quarterback for generations. By all accounts, the Bears have finally landed one.

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