Caleb Williams, Most Likely to Succeed? FOX Sports' NFC North high school superlatives

It's graduation time and we've got caps and gowns and yearbooks on the brain. So did the Chicago Bears when they released their 2024 schedule.

While students are getting ready to graduate, NFL teams will be concluding their offseason programs in a couple of weeks and graduating to next season, officially. As such, I've compiled a list of superlatives you'll see in any high school yearbook, only I applied them to the NFC North class of NFL High.

There have been some tweaks and adjustments made to fit more of the football vernacular, but I think you'll find this mix headlining the 2024 season across the division in some form or fashion.

Most Likely to Succeed: QB Caleb Williams, Chicago Bears

This is straight out of the yearbook and how could it not be? Williams has been put in perhaps the best situation a quarterback taken first overall has ever been put in. He has an arsenal of receiving weapons now with D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen and ninth overall pick Rome Odunze. Add in a running back by committee that's headlined by D'Andre Swift, a tight end room that includes Cole Kmet and now Gerald Everett, along with an offensive line that has been infused with some veteran talent, and Chicago has themselves a great situation to develop a quarterback. They also got offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who was the architect behind Geno Smith's resurgence in Seattle. 

Under Waldron in 2022, Smith led the league in completion percentage and had a 78.8 percent on-target rate. He threw for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions and earned himself a Pro Bowl nod on the way to Comeback Player of the Year honors. He followed that campaign up with his second-straight Pro Bowl selection in 2023, passing for 3,634 yards, 20 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in 15 games started. 

Can we expect the same from Williams? Maybe not right away given that he's a rookie, but that should be the goal. Couple all of the offensive pieces with a defense that finished as the stingiest in the league in terms of quarterback rating allowed in the final eight weeks of the season and there's nothing more Williams could want. I've been preaching patience but if it doesn't happen with Williams, it might not ever happen for the Bears. Luckily for them, it looks likely.

Best dressed (guy who fits his team the best): QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

No one has been embraced more by their team and, therefore no one looks quite as fitting in their jersey, than Goff. It's ironic because Goff was the No. 1 overall pick by another franchise (who he took to a Super Bowl) and yet visions of Goff in blue and gold are all but gone from our collective psyche. It's all about the Honolulu Blue now, baby. Detroit also just made Goff one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks with an average contract value of $53.5 million and "Ja-red Goff" chants break out at Ford Field and all over Detroit — even in the offseason.

In the 2023 regular season, Goff added more value to his team than any other quarterback not named Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Dak Prescott by way of positive EPA dropbacks, where the result of the play had a greater expected points value after the snap than before it. 

Goff also got up on stage at the 2024 NFL Draft with his teammates and the crowd roared like it was the divisional round of the playoffs all over again. Honolulu Blue suits Goff.

Most likely to be on reality TV: The Chicago Bears 

This is still a rumor but it seems like an almost foregone conclusion that the Bears will be this year's "Hard Knocks" team in the preseason. They don't have a first-year head coach, they didn't make the playoffs last year and all eyes are on them anyway with the arrival of Williams. 

LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS - MAY 10: Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron of the Chicago Bears talks with Caleb Williams #18 during Chicago Bears Rookie Minicamp at Halas Hall on May 10, 2024 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Smartest: Head coach Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

I don't know if it's cheating to include coaches on here, but what O'Connell did last year after Kirk Cousins went down with his Achilles injury was nothing short of brain-breaking. O'Connell was playing live-action Madden with a host of backup quarterbacks, some (like Josh Dobbs) only having arrived days prior to them seeing game action in the purple and gold. 

The organization has once again placed their faith in O'Connell by selecting J.J. McCarthy to be their quarterback of the future with the 10th pick in this year's draft. They have quarterback Sam Darnold on the roster to keep the team afloat until McCarthy is ready, but O'Connell has a project on his hands. McCarthy's traits are there but he's a bit untested. For example, McCarthy threw 32 passes in the fourth quarter all of last season for the national champion Michigan Wolverines. A Big Ten team through and through, Michigan relied heavily on their ground game, which took a lot off the plate of McCarthy. Minnesota will have to get him reps (both mental and physical) and mold him but who better to do it than a former quarterback-turned-head-coach?

Class Clown: CB Terrion Arnold, Detroit Lions

Arnold might be a rookie, but we've already seen loads of his personality. All I need to show you is the below.

Teacher's Pet: CB Xavier McKinney, Green Bay Packers (in DC Jeff Hafley's defense)

The  Packers don't spend a ton of money in free agency, like, ever. That's why it was so refreshing to see that after acquiring a new defensive coordinator in Hafley, whose defense relies very heavily on the safety position, the Packers opened up their wallet and signed the best free-agent safety on the market this year: McKinney. They also drafted Javon Bullard out of Georgia in the second round and proceeded to draft two more safeties in the fourth and fifth rounds. They did have 11 picks…

Now, McKinney being the vet will also make McKinney the de facto leader. He's going to be in charge of the young ones and be the go-between for Hafley and the rest of his position room and maybe even the secondary in general. 

Most Athletic: DB Brian Branch, Detroit Lions

What can't Branch do? He's a Swiss-Army knife of a defender in Detroit's increasingly positionless secondary and was a factor in both their pass rush and coverage in his very first season. Branch recorded 41 pass rush snaps as a safety and pressured the quarterback on 29.3 percent of them. In run support, he had 10 stuffs and his time-to-tackle was 5.21 seconds. He was a steal in the second round for the Lions and we haven't even seen close to his ceiling.

Rome Odunze and Caleb Williams pose for a photo during their introductory press conference at Halas Hall on April 26, 2024 in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Inseparable Duo: Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze, Chicago Bears

These two already have so much chemistry on social media, now it will just be about translating it onto the field where they hopefully grow into the greatest quarterback-receiver duo the Bears have ever seen. It wouldn't be hard. They would just have to beat out Justin Fields and D.J. Moore from last season, who had the most yards of any quarterback-wide receiver duo in Bears history with 1,109 along with eight touchdowns. 

Most likely to come out of their shell: QB J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings

Going along with awarding O'Connell the biggest brainiac in the class, that means McCarthy is going to have a breakout at some point. Whether that's early this coming season, or perhaps later, the Vikings are banking on McCarthy turning into their franchise quarterback. They have the luxury of being patient with Darnold on the roster right now, but if McCarthy can capitalize on his traits and be molded by O'Connell to fit the Vikings' scheme, the glow-up will be real.

Most likely to become a millionaire (get a max contract): QB Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

This isn't a matter of if it's a matter of when and I'd bet that ‘when' is coming sooner rather than later. The Packers took yet another gamble by drafting the successor to their current quarterback years before they needed him. Love rode the bench behind Aaron Rodgers for three years. But for the third straight time, Green Bay executed their unique succession plan to perfection. Love had an infinitely better first season as a starter than Rodgers or even Brett Favre did before Rodgers. Love quelled any sort of concerns by throwing 18 touchdowns against just one interception in the last eight games of the season. He led the youngest team in the league to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. In the regular season, Love ended up throwing for 4,159 yards and 32 touchdowns. He had a 67.3 percent completion rate in the playoffs and threw for 466 yards and five touchdowns in two games. The Packers know they have to pay Love now and it isn't going to be cheap.

Even if you're in Green Bay, the going rate for a franchise quarterback starts with the number five.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.


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