The Las Vegas Raiders opted to pass on taking a quarterback until the fourth round of last month’s NFL Draft, putting the position in play for them during next year’s draft. Naturally, Raider fans have already started pounding the table for the expected top prospect in the 2024 class, USC’s Caleb Williams.
So, what could the reigning Heisman Trophy winner bring to Las Vegas? Let’s revive the ‘Five Clips’ column from last offseason and find out!
Caleb Williams with a beautiful throw on the run pic.twitter.com/DBsg6nGr35— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 16, 2023
Last season at USC, Williams became known for his ability to extend and make plays with his feet. But what stands out about his film and helps make his game transferable to the NFL is he isn’t someone who just looks to bail out of the pocket as fast as he can.
Here, the Utes have a four-man rush and the Trojans’ offensive line does a great job of keeping the pass rushers at bay. The problem is no one is getting open, but Williams stays in the pocket for about five seconds and doesn’t even start to roll out until one of the rushers can break free.
From there, his athleticism allows him to escape, and notice how he keeps his eyes downfield as he scrambles. The USC product is also excellent at making throws on the run as we see him drop the ball in the bucket to give his guy a chance to make a sideline grab for an explosive play. At the next level, that ball gets caught.
Caleb Williams is a human joystick lol pic.twitter.com/MieeznCRtB— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 16, 2023
This next clip is similar, only USC is trying to run a screen to the running back toward the bottom of the screen. However, Utah’s linebacker—who initially blitzes—recognizes it and takes the screen away. Normally, this ball would be thrown in the dirt by the quarterback and the offense will have to start the drive off schedule or behind the sticks. But not with Williams under center.
Instead of just grounding the ball, he has the athletic ability to turn into a human joystick and pull off some video game-like moves to evade pass rushers and go pick up the first down on a play that should have been doomed from the start.
An underrated aspect of this play is his presence of mind to know that he can’t dump the ball to one of the receivers because offensive linemen will be down the field blocking for the screen. That plus the combination of unreal athleticism is part of what makes Williams such a unique prospect.
Love how Caleb Williams keeps his eyes downfield when scrambling, then is just fun in the open field pic.twitter.com/fOAIZt8TRt— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 16, 2023
One more scramble before moving on to a couple of more traditional passes.
What I love about this clip is the ball is snapped with about 1:56 on the game clock but Williams doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage until the 1:46 mark or 10 seconds into the play. That’s because he’s one, working through his reads as we can see while he’s in the pocket, and two, he’s still looking to be a “pass-first” type of quarterback and not someone who scrambles at the first sign of trouble.
Also, he has a great feel for pressure as he starts to step up in the pocket right before No. 99 breaks free, giving him ample time to avoid the sack. He even starts to roll out and away from pressure when No. 97 starts to pursue him.
This is another good example of how Williams keeps his eyes down the field while scrambling, and his ability to make defenders miss in the open field can’t be ignored either.
Caleb Williams with a nice back-shoulder throw under pressure pic.twitter.com/2nPcHfLqJ6— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 16, 2023
Getting back to the Heisman Trophy Winner’s throwing ability, USC calls a play-action pass where his primary read is to the left on this play. However, with what looks like a fire zone or Cover 3 call from Utah, the primary concept is covered.
So, Williams takes his eyes to the middle of the field and sees the single-high safety is there to help on the backside dig route. However, that also means that the tight end (or in this case, the receiver playing tight end) working across the formation will be one-on-one with a linebacker.
The pressure is also starting to come from the Utes, meaning Williams has to get rid of the ball quickly after working to his third or fourth read. He steps up in the pocket and delivers a nice back-shoulder throw to take advantage of the one-on-one matchup and pick up the first down.
Another example of him working through progressions, this time with the added element of him taking a hit right after releasing the ball.
Our last clip shows off what Williams can do with a nice clean pocket. The Trojans are trying to get a score right before halftime while starting inside their 20, so he has to push the ball down the field and the Utes know that. Hence why not a single coverage defender is even in the picture when he releases the pass.
Williams finds his man and delivers an absolute seed over the middle of the field. He also shows beautiful touch to place the ball between the second and third levels of the defense and in front of his target. That pass could not have been thrown better as it traveled about 40 yards in the air and was dropped in a bucket.
Now USC can take a couple of shots from midfield or set up a field goal to extend their lead before halftime.