Caleb Williams Will Not Throw At Combine

The importance of the NFL Scouting Combine continues to be called into question two years after stringent COVID-19 rules nearly caused a mass boycott of the event in 2022. The topic of the boycott brought attention to how important the combine is for late-round, fringe, and small school prospects while potentially serving as a negative for some of college football’s best. Those debates may crop up again with recent news that USC quarterback Caleb Williams plans not to throw at next week’s combine, according to Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report.

To clarify, Williams still plans on attending the event in Indianapolis, according to Ian Rapoport. He’ll be available to interview with any interested teams. It’s unclear if he’ll perform in any of the other workouts of the combine, but we know for sure that he will not throw. Rapoport informs us that Williams’ plan is to wait until his pro day, where he will throw and workout for scouts.

There will be pundits chirping on both sides of the story. Some will support the decision, claiming that he has nothing to gain from throwing at the combine. He’s already expected to be selected at No. 1 overall and plans to throw on March 20 at the Trojan’s pro day. What good can be done by working out twice?

The other side will point to character issues that have persisted in the media throughout his junior year of college. Williams’ mentality and leadership took hits late in the year from the media after the quarterback refused to speak to reporters following what ended up being his final game of college football. Rapoport himself seemed to call out the 22-year-old citing Joe Burrow as an example of how a quarterback should handle his role and responsibilities. His refusal to work out among the other quarterbacks is sure to draw criticism from those who already believe that “off-field concerns” exist for the young passer.

In reality, there are advantages to working at the combine, namely the officiality of the measurements and the additional opportunity to work with NFL coaches. Sure, he will get to perform workouts at his pro day, but the results of timed exercises will be hand-timed. Also, while some coaches will choose to attend USC’s pro day, the combine serves as an additional opportunity to work with NFL staff. Some will look down on Williams’ decision to reject that opportunity.

So, yes, there are advantages, but are they minimal for someone with his current draft stock? That’s difficult to answer. We have certainly seen bad combine performances affect draft stock. Most recently, free agent tight end Isaac Nauta went from first-round prospect to seventh-round pick in 2019. Similarly, Bengals offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. fell to the third round after what is classically seen as one of the worst combine performances of all time. Still, there are examples of players like Terrell Suggs, who, despite a terrible combine performance, still turned out to be a top-10 pick.

Could Williams be the next to fall victim to the combine? Probably not. He isn’t expected to deliver anywhere near that poor of a performance and, even if he did, his current stock is simply too high to warrant a drastic fall. Still, when he’s already at the top of most prospect rankings, there’s nowhere for him to go but down. It’s hard to blame him for choosing not to take any chances heading into the 2024 NFL Draft.

His announcement has, obviously, caught headlines, though. In the time between the Schultz’s initial report and this one, both Schultz and Rapoport have reported on a number of other prospect’s intentions. So far, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix, and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy have all made it known that they intend to throw next week. Only LSU’s Jayden Daniels has joined Williams in announcing his intentions to wait until his pro day, per Rapoport. The other four passers will have the opportunity to not only work out at the combine in front of NFL coaches but also to do so in direct comparison to their competition, with the lone exceptions (so far) of Williams and Daniels.

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