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

 Caleb Williams just finished one of the most spectacular college football careers in recent memory. Last month, the quarterback announced his intentions to leave USC and enter the NFL draft.

Williams is the heavy 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's unclear whether 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 will likely be Williams.

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

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"It's unfair to Justin Fields. He has new coordinators, new coordinators, new coordinators. When you do that you have no possible way to know about your guy. It's the worst thing that can happen to any Can happen with players, especially quarterbacks.

Hodge then explained the one thing he believed Fields was missing.

"When Justin came out, I thought the one thing he had... was inexperience. He just needed more experience. He lacked it. But from what I've seen in Justin Fields from my evaluation, he It's that there's enough growth there and hopefully I don't let that go, because I see a lot there."

Williams, meanwhile, has been widely praised for his unique talents, which many project will lead 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.

"One thing that's clear, he's not special," Hoge said on NBC Sports Chicago. "He's not as unique as Patrick Mahomes. And I hope the Bears don't think, 'Let's try to make up for our mistake when we passed on Patrick Mahomes and got Patrick Mahomes.' The kid is not Patrick Mahomes. Not even remotely close to him."

It appears the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner felt Hoge's criticism. By Saturday, Williams liked a video posted on Hoge's social media, saying he was "not special", possibly indicating he would miss the commentary.

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

The USC football team started 6–0 last season under second-year coach Lincoln Riley, but struggled. The Trojans lost five of their final six games of the year to finish with a disappointing 8–5 record.

As losses mounted into the season, criticism of Williams began to increase. There had previously been some speculation that Williams had no interest in playing in Chicago, but Williams' representatives recently denied those claims.

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