USC football rumors: Caleb Williams could stay with Trojans if draft landing spot stinks

Caleb Williams is clearly taking a page out of The Manning Brothers playbook by putting it out there that he is not about to go to a dog water NFL organization picking first in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Caleb Williams, USC Trojans
Caleb Williams, USC Trojans / Katelyn Mulcahy/GettyImages

If Caleb Williams does not want to play for the Arizona Cardinals, he could always return to USC.

The first seed has been planted in the Caleb Williams will not play for the Arizona Cardinals narrative.

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner is a true junior at USC. This may only be his second season in Los Angeles, but he still has a year of eligibility left after this campaign. Though we have the entire 2023 NFL season to sort itself out, a seed has been planted in the camp of Williams not wanting to go to the Cardinals. His father Carl did not say this specifically, but he hinted at it big time in this GQ article.

"The funky thing about the NFL draft process is, he’d almost be better off not being drafted than being drafted first. The system is completely backwards. The way the system is constructed, you go to the worst possible situation. The worst possible team, the worst organization in the league—because of their desire for parity—gets the first pick. So it’s the gift and the curse."

Carl Williams has already talked to Archie Manning and Lincoln Riley about this sort of predicament.

"I mean, I’ve talked to Archie Manning—his career was shot because he went to a horrible organization. I’ve talked to Lincoln [Riley], and Kyler [Murray] struggled because of where he was drafted. Baker [Mayfield] struggled mightily because of where he was drafted. The organizations matter. [Caleb's] got two shots at the apple. So if there’s not a good situation, the truth is, he can come back to school.”

The 1970s New Orleans Saints Manning played for were awful. His sons evaded bad organizations during their draft processes. Peyton did not declare in 1997 to avoid going to the New York Jets. He went to a slightly better spot in the Indianapolis Colts over the then-San Diego Chargers, a team that drafted Ryan Leaf after him and technically picked Eli Manning right before the New York Giants trade.

With Kyler Murray, another star college football quarterback under Riley, having had his up and downs with Arizona, I think we need to see the Cardinals prove they are worthy of Williams at No. 1 in 2024.

Caleb Williams may return to USC for senior year instead of entering draft

Look. I think this is strictly a leverage play out of The Williamses and nothing more. Arizona may not be the best organization in the NFL, but the Cardinals regularly make the postseason out of the deep NFC West. They have a new regime at the helm in Jonathan Gannon as head coach and Monti Ossenfort as the general manager. This could be a dynamic duo. Of course, what about Matt Leinart?

I think that is a very interesting wrinkle to consider. Williams has perhaps more intel on the Cardinals organization than any returning Heisman Trophy winner has had ahead of entering an NFL Draft. This is the organization that drafted Leinart out of USC, a place where the southpaw star sputtered and ultimately failed as a professional. Then again, Carson Palmer had his best years playing for Arizona...

In short, The Williamses can pick the brains of Manning and Riley about the draft process, as well as noted quarterbacks who have played for the Cardinals with USC/Riley ties, whether that be Leinart, Murray, Palmer or newfound NFL journeyman Baker Mayfield, who is now on a rebuilding Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, his fourth franchise since being selected first by the Cleveland Browns in 2018.

Williams should, and probably will, turn pro after this season, but Arizona will need prove itself first.

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