Caleb Williams isn’t throwing at NFL combine, but another decision he made may tell us even more

INDIANAPOLIS — Caleb Williams marketed the decision differently.

As USC’s star quarterback confirmed he was indeed declining to participate in medical evaluations at the NFL scouting combine, he clarified that he wasn’t declining to undergo medical evaluations altogether.

Rather, Williams will cycle through medical evaluations with teams whom he visits in the coming weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. The decision is more unusual than Williams’ accompanying choice to decline throwing at the combine. But the quarterback who’s nearly a lock to be drafted in the top two, and is currently BetMGM’s odds-on favorite to go first overall, explained his logic.

“Not 32 teams can draft me,” Williams said Friday morning. “There is only one of me. So the teams that I go to for my visit, those teams will have the medical and that’ll be it.”

In a social media-crazed world, reports and leaks are common. Some leaks may be less detrimental to the player alone, such as information on which high team desires them. Other information is more personal, like the S2 cognition test results that leaked in what seemed a smear campaign against quarterback C.J. Stroud. The Houston Texans ultimately selected Stroud No. 2 overall last year, paving the way for his Rookie of the Year campaign.

But the discomfort lingered, some agents now discouraging their players from taking the S2 test while Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said this week that it was “unfortunate” that Stroud’s results got out.

“That should never get out,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Those are private things that the players trust us with.”

Williams, in his approach to NFL medical evaluations, is opening that circle of trust to fewer teams than his predecessors did.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams will only do medical evaluations with teams he meets with individually, a departure from draft cycles past for players in his position. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

USC quarterback Caleb Williams will do medical evaluations only with teams he meets with individually, a departure from draft cycles past for players in his position. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

It’s too soon to say whether the medical decision will become a trend, even as some players delay workouts until pro day and Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. now eschews one all together. It’s too soon also to say whether that will help or hurt teams looking to succeed in the famously inexact science of quarterback evaluation, one NFL front-office source saying they didn’t see it as an advantage or disadvantage for any single team.

“Overall it’s just a trend in the wrong direction for the league [of] more players opting out of things,” the source said. “Not sure how they mitigate that.”

The teams in play for Williams, the source added, would have tested him anyway on visits. So they’re likely to still get the information they need; and unlikely, the source felt, to find more helpful, differentiating draft intel in an individualized medical evaluation.

Williams is focused more on what’s right for him than what he believes should set NFL precedent.

“I tend to like to create history and rewrite history,” Williams said. “I don’t compare myself to the other guys that are there or have been there. I think I’m my own player.”

Who exactly is Williams as a player?

In 37 collegiate games at Oklahoma and then USC, Williams completed 66.9% of pass attempts for 10,092 yards, 93 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He threw for a full 42 touchdowns to five picks during his 2022 Heisman Trophy campaign.

Williams’ production, traits and ability earned him BetMGM’s -1100 odds for the No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 draft, ahead of fellow quarterbacks in UNC’s Drake Maye at +1100 and LSU’s Jayden Daniels at +1200.

Yahoo Sports’ Nate Tice and Charles McDonald pegged Williams second overall in their latest mock draft.

The hype needed no combine throwing workout, Williams and his family decided.

“I played around 30-something games I believe,” he said. “Go ahead and watch real live ball of me and see how I am as a competitor.”

Williams interviewed in person this week with the No. 1 pick-owning Chicago Bears, No. 2 Washington Commanders and No. 3 New England Patriots. The Commanders brought more people, including team owner Josh Harris, while the Patriots “room wasn’t as packed,” Williams said.

Questions canvassed Williams’ personality, thought process and football approach. Williams reiterated Friday the excitement that would accompany getting drafted by his hometown Commanders, but he did not play into previous tropes that he wants to avoid the Bears.

He lauded their ability to win seven games entering a draft in which they hold the first overall pick, framing it as opportune for a rookie quarterback.

Williams expects to go No. 1.

“I don’t think I’m not going to be No. 1,” Williams said. “I put in all the hard work. All of the time, effort, energy into being that. I don’t think of a Plan B. That’s kind of how I do things in my life. I don’t think of a Plan B.

“Stay on Plan A and then when things don’t work out find a way to make Plan A work.”

Williams stayed on his Plan A to keep medical information in house and next he’ll stay on Plan A to visit teams. After that, he’ll progress to Plan A to get drafted first overall — followed by Plan A to win early and win often.

That’s all he still wants to know from the Bears, who currently hold the pick he expects to be him.

“Just, ‘Do you want to win?’” Williams said. “That’s it.”

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