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Williams selected No. 1 overall by Bears at 2024 NFL Draft


DETROIT (AP) — Caleb Williams swiftly walked on stage, looked out and screamed “Woooo! Yeah!”

Long-suffering Bears fans felt his joy.

Williams is heading to the Windy City, aiming to become the franchise quarterback Chicago has sought for decades.

“My goal is to get into as far as February as I can,” Williams said, referring to playing in a Super Bowl for a team that hasn't hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 39 years.

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner kicked off an historic NFL draft Thursday night that had five other teams selecting quarterbacks among the top 12 picks, setting a record with five in the top 10 and tying a record for the most in the first round.

Nearly the entire first half of the draft was offensive players.

A defensive player wasn’t selected until UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu went at No. 15 to Indianapolis. That's the latest a first defensive player has ever gone.

The Bears opened with the easy choice, taking Williams at No. 1 after deciding weeks ago to bank on the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner from USC.

“Care, love and support and want to win,” Williams said about what he's bringing to Chicago.

The Washington Commanders followed up by taking 2023 Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels from LSU and the New England Patriots took North Carolina's Drake Maye at No. 3, making it the fourth draft with quarterbacks going with the first three picks.

It matched 2021 (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance), 1971 (Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, Dan Pastorini) and 1999 (Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith).

At No. 8, the Atlanta Falcons made a stunning decision to choose Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. despite signing Kirk Cousins to a massive contract in free agency. The Minnesota Vikings traded up one spot and took J.J. McCarthy, who led Michigan to a national championship, to make it five QBs in the top 10 for the first time.

The Denver Broncos chose Oregon's Bo Nix with the 12th pick, tying the 1983 draft with six QBs in the first round. Three of those became Hall of Famers — John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien also went in the first round in 1983.

The Arizona Cardinals snapped the early QB trend, choosing Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. with the fourth pick. The Los Angeles Chargers opened the Jim Harbaugh era by taking Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt instead of giving Justin Herbert a No. 1 wide receiver to replace Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

The New York Giants then snatched up LSU receiver Malik Nabers at No. 6. The Tennessee Titans took Alabama offensive tackle J.C. Latham with the seventh pick and the Bears selected Washington wideout Rome Odunze at No. 9.

The New York Jets, who dropped to No. 11, chose offensive tackle Olu Fashanu, giving Aaron Rodgers more protection. The Las Vegas Raiders got Georgia tight end Brock Bowers at No. 13. The New Orleans Saints took Oregon State offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga with the 14th pick before the Colts grabbed Latu.

Previously, the latest a first defensive player was selected was No. 8. Latu started a short trend. The Seattle Seahawks took Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy next and the Vikings made another trade to move up and take Alabama edge Dallas Turner at No. 17.

The Cincinnati Bengals chose Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims and the Los Angeles Rams got Florida State edge Jared Verse at No. 19, the team's first selection in the first round since taking Jared Goff at No. 1 in 2016.

Wearing a navy suit with silver accents and flashing a big smile, Williams gave Roger Goodell a bear hug, careful not to squeeze too hard because the NFL commissioner had back surgery three weeks ago.

Rap icon Eminem walked on stage in a Lions sweatshirt and cap shortly after Goodell to start the festivities. The Motor City native riled up the fans before turning it over to Lions stars Goff, Aidan Hutchinson, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.

St. Brown led them in chanting “Jar-ed Goff!” and Johnson kept it short: “Whaddup doe?”

An estimated crowd of 150,000, many wearing their Honolulu blue Lions jerseys, filled the streets surrounding the draft theater and turned the NFL’s biggest offseason event into a giant party.

Williams is the third quarterback Chicago has selected in the first round in the past eight years. Mitch Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, lasted four seasons. Justin Fields, the 11th pick in 2021, was traded away for a conditional sixth-round pick after three seasons.

The 22-year-old Williams is tasked with turning the Bears into a winner after years of futility. Chicago has had just two winning seasons since its most recent playoff victory in the 2010 season.

Williams was the clear front-runner in a quarterback-rich draft. The Bears didn’t meet with any other QBs and Williams didn’t visit any other teams. He impressed his future team over dinner with several Bears players last month, showing them he’s more substance than Hollywood style.

Williams has lofty goals. He’s talked about playing 20 years for one team and chasing Tom Brady’s record of seven Super Bowl titles. The Bears only have won it once following the 1985 season.

A dual-threat player with a strong arm and ability to improvise, Williams threw 93 touchdown passes and ran for 27 scores in three seasons at Oklahoma and USC.

The Bears are the only NFL franchise that hasn’t had a quarterback throw for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns in a season. They passed up on Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud last year and traded the No. 1 pick to Carolina in a blockbuster deal only to get the top choice this year after the Panthers went 2-15.

The 23-year-old Daniels, who played three seasons at Arizona State and two at LSU, gives the Commanders a potential franchise QB after leading the nation in total offense last season with 4,946 yards. A do-it-all player, Daniels ranked fifth with 3,812 yards passing and with 40 touchdowns.

“I’m Jayden Daniels the person, and then football is just what I do,” Daniels said. "So I don’t let football define me, who I am as a human being. This is something I do and I’m passionate about it.”

Maye is the second QB the Patriots have selected in the first round since Tom Brady left the team after the 2019 season. Mac Jones didn’t work out and now it’s Maye’s turn to be the man in a new era that starts without longtime coach Bill Belichick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected versatile Washington offensive lineman Troy Fautanu at No. 20. Penn State edge Chop Robinson went next to the Miami Dolphins and the Philadelphia Eagles went with Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell with the 22nd pick.

Wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. was chosen by the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 23.