What should expectations be for the Caleb Williams-Rome Odunze connection? Consider past rookie QB-WR combos

The Chicago Bears have reimagined their offense this offseason.

Caleb Williams is now a Bear, as is Keenan Allen, D’Andre Swift and more. The most significant addition aside from Williams, though, might be rookie receiver Rome Odunze, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

The duo of Williams and Odunze could combine to be one of the best quarterback-receiver combinations in Chicago Bears history.

But, the Bears already have Keenan Allen and DJ Moore. Given there are two receivers ahead of Odunze, what should expectations be for the rookie receiver out of Washington?

A look at some of the best rookie quarterback-wide receiver combos the NFL has seen in recent history can give a little insight.

Houston Texans’ C.J. Stroud and Tank Dell

This is an easy one to recall. It happened just last season.

Stroud took the NFL by storm, leading the Houston Texans in a massive turnaround to 10 wins and a playoff berth.

Dell, a University of Houston product, was a third-round selection for the Texans but made his presence felt early with near-instant chemistry with Stroud. The two combined for 47 receptions, 709 yards and seven touchdowns.

The best Stroud-Dell game came in Houston’s 39-37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dell and Stroud combined for six receptions, 114 yards and two touchdowns. This included the duo combining for the game-winning touchdown with six seconds left.

This combo is proof of what chemistry between a young receiver and quarterback can do for a team that’s predominantly young. Dell missed the end of the season with an injury, but the two are set to resume the combination in 2024 for a Texans team that’s only getting better.

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 26: Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) makes his way across the field during day 1 of the Texans Training Camp at Houston Methodist Training Center on July 26, 2023, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire v

Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton

Back in 2012, the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning entered the league, ironically with Indianapolis, when the Colts selected Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

In the third round, the Colts also took receiver T.Y. Hilton out of Florida International. That began what became a formidable duo in the AFC South.

Hilton and Luck combined for 50 receptions for 861 yards and seven touchdowns. Hilton became Luck’s deep threat while the two were both in Indianapolis. 

In 82 games, the Luck-Hilton combination produced 409 catches for 6,501 yards and 35 touchdowns.

That’s not a bad bar to set when thinking about what the Williams-Odunze combination could eventually become. This goes beyond playing football, too.

On the Pat McAfee Show in 2021, Hilton said that he still talks to Luck even after Luck retired from the NFL in 2019. 

Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and A.J. Green

A.J. Green was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. The next night, the Bengals drafted his quarterback when they took Andy Dalton in the second round.

The duo became one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL for an entire decade.

As rookies, Dalton and Green powered the Bengals' offense as Cincinnati finished with a 9-7 record.

According to Statmuse, Dalton was better for having Green just on the field. 

The two played 107 games together. In those games, Dalton had a passer rating of 89.5. He threw for  25,102 yards, 174 touchdowns and 93 interceptions when playing with A.J. Green. The short answer is: having Green just made Dalton a better passer.

The two combined for 58 touchdown connections playing together before Dalton departed Cincinnati after the 2019 season for Dallas.

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)

What expectations should Bears fans have Odunze?

On one hand, it’s fair to expect some fireworks from Williams and Odunze as rookies. The two had already worked out together before they were drafted, meaning they already have an established rapport with each other.

That chemistry is important to note.

Still, on the other end, Odunze is walking into a receiver room that already has DJ Moore and Keenan Allen. Neither of the aforementioned Dell, Green or Hilton had receiver rooms quite as talented when they were rookies.

But, what should the expectations be for Odunze? A good place to compare is the Seattle Seahawks.

Last season, the Seahawks did not have a rookie quarterback, but they did have a first-round pick at wide receiver in Jaxon Smith-Njigba who entered a receiver room with established and talented veterans DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, as well as Shane Waldron as Seattle’s offensive coordinator.

Waldron is now the offensive coordinator for the Bears.

In his rookie season, Smith-Njigba caught 63 passes for 628 yards and four touchdowns with Waldron calling the plays. Even with Lockett and Metcalf as the primary and secondary options.

With Moore and Allen leading the way, a 60-catch, 600-yard and four-touchdown year for Odunze would be a good welcome to the league.


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