Former NFL player Merril Hoge rips top draft prospect Caleb Williams: 'He is not special'


Caleb Williams recently wrapped up one of the most prolific college football careers in recent memory. Last month, the quarterback announced his intention to leave USC and enter the NFL Draft.

Williams is the overwhelming favorite to become the first player selected in April’s draft. For the second year in a row, the Chicago Bears hold the top overall draft pick. The franchise decided to trade last year’s No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers and let Justin Fields handle the starting quarterback duties for 2023.

It remains unclear if the Bears will decide to trade their 2024 No. 1 overall selection and move forward with Fields or use the pick on a new quarterback, which presumably would be Williams.

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Merril Hoge interviewed at radio row

Merril Hoge speaks on SiriusXM at Super Bowl LVIII on February 8, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Fields has faced some criticism throughout his three seasons under center at the NFL level, but former Bears running back Merril Hoge defended the young quarterback and suggested the franchise has failed Fields in some ways.

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“It is unfair to Justin Fields. He has new coordinator, new coordinator, new coordinator. There is no possible way you can know about your guy when you do that. It’s the worst thing that can happen to any player, especially a quarterback.

Hodge then pointed out that the one thing he believed Fields was missing.

Justin Fields in warm ups

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields throws during warmups before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, October 15, 2023, in Chicago.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

“When Justin came out, the one thing that I thought he had . . . was inexperience. He just needed more experience. He lacked that. But what I have seen in Justin Fields, from my evaluation, is that there is enough growth and hope there that I would not let him go, because I see enough there.”

Meanwhile, Williams has largely been praised for his unique talents, which many project will carry over to the NFL. However, Hoge was not impressed with what he saw from Williams and suggested that the Bears should not draft him at the No. 1 spot.

Caleb Williams vs Nevada

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (13) scrambles during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nevada on Saturday, September 2, 2023, in Los Angeles.  (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

“The one thing that is clear, he is not special,” Hoge said on NBC Sports Chicago. “He is not something unique like a Patrick Mahomes. And I hope the Bears don’t think, ‘Well let’s try to make up for our mistake when we passed up Patrick Mahomes and go get the Patrick Mahomes.’ The kid is not Patrick Mahomes. Ain’t even remotely close to that.”

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner appeared to have caught wind of Hoge’s criticism. As of Saturday, Williams liked a video posted to social media of Hoge saying he was “not special,” likely signaling that he would remember the commentary.

Caleb Williams walks off the field

USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) waves to fans while leaving the field after the Trojans’ 52-42 loss to Washington at L.A. Memorial Coliseum November 4, 2023, in Los Angeles, California. ((Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Williams finished the 2023 season with 3,633 passing yards, 30 touchdowns against five interceptions and 142 rushing yards. 

The USC football team got off to a 6-0 start this past season under second-year coach Lincoln Riley, but struggled down the stretch. The Trojans dropped five of their last six games of the year to finish with a disappointing 8-5 record.

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As the losses piled up late in the season, the criticism directed at Williams began to mount. Some discussions also previously surfaced stating that Williams was not interested in playing in Chicago, but Williams’ representatives recently denied those claims.

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