Sean Payton drops wild NFL draft take on USC’s Caleb Williams

Caleb Williams is technically still a true sophomore. He began his college career playing as a true freshman for Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, followed his coach to play some USC football, where he became a starter and tour-de-force Heisman favorite, and is already generating serious draft interest despite not being eligible to jump to the professional ranks until the spring of 2024.

Could Williams struggle as a junior and lose some steam heading into that particular draft period? You bet; Spencer Rattler was deemed a first-overall pick-caliber performer before he struggled in his final year under Riley and now plays for South Carolina and is graded a third-round prospect according to NFL Draft Buzz, but some, like former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, have already fully thrown their hat into the center of the ring, and boldly declared that Williams, who doesn’t turn 21 until 2023, is the sort of generational talent who is not only worthy of “sucking for” but could force the NFL to change the very system by which draft players are selected, as he detailed to Colin Cowherd on his FS1 show The Herd.

“It’s healthy when we in scouting like to say ‘well, who does he remind you of?’ Payton said. “And we’re not putting that pressure on Caleb to be the next Mahomes and ‘oh, you’re gonna be the next Mahomes’ it’s just, it’s very good to be like ‘he’s like this.’ And so, I brought it up yesterday on the show, I think he’s a generational player and I’ve seen three or four games, obviously not as many as I would if I was truly doing the evaluation, but at some point, especially with the relationship the league has in gaming now, at some point, we’re going to move to a lottery system in the NFL. Because this is the kind of player who does that where, at the end of the season, here you are in Week call it 14, 12, teams begin to lose to put themselves in that position.”

Jeez, Payton; if you don’t want to put pressure on someone, don’t call them the next Mahomes.

Now granted, if the NFL were to put into place a draft lottery, everyone, from teams, to players, and even fans would have to know about it before the season starts, and, considering there hasn’t been much talk about implementing a lottery to this point in the season, it feels unlikely that such a complicated system could be put into place in time for the start of the 2023 NFL season, but as Payton further pointed out in his conversation with Cowherd, the presence of sports gambling could force such a system into place should multiple teams try to “Win-less for Williams” next fall.

Payton believes the top USC Football prospect could change the NFL draft system.

Discussing the concept of tanking, Payton detailed the two examples of it that he can think of in recent memory and how they were viewed differently at the time.

“That hasn’t been a problem to date in this league as we know it, but it very well could have been,” Payton said. “We’ve had two teams that I know who lost games. Tampa Bay, Lovie Smith, great coach, a good friend, and we’re losing to the Buccaneers in the last game of the season and all of their starters were pulled. All of the linebackers were pulled and I’m on the headphones in the third quarter asking ‘what do you mean Levonte David is out?’ And right away, they were at the one spot and if they won that game they risked going to the two spot and they wanted to select Jameis Winston, so that actually happened. It happened at 1 pm, on a small market game and it just disappeared in Tampa and we never talked about it. Now last year, on a national stage, or two years ago, I forget, Philadelphia took out their starting quarterback and put in Nate Sudfeld and I thought ‘what are they doing in this?’ and it was on Monday Night Football or Sunday Night Football and it was a problem for the league. And it was a problem because Philly wanted to stick at the five or the six spot, there was nothing that they were playing for. You’re always playing for something, you always lose a little bit of your locker room when you do that I think, but this player I think is the type of player we look back on in five years and say ‘he’s why the lottery exists now.’ And if I were to say, who is the worst team in the league now?”

Caleb Williams, Heisman, Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, USC football, Caleb Williams heisman

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Caleb Williams, USC Football
USC football, Caleb Williams

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After Cowherd answered the Houston Texans, Payton dug back in.

“Eventually, it’s going to happen,” Payton said. “Because look, we weren’t tied to the casinos but as soon as the spread’s at six, all of a sudden, we watch the Eagles at that time, or the Buccaneers or another team pull their starters and you’re sitting with a parlay going, that’s gonna p*ss some people off.”

Is Payton correct? Will sports betters complain to their bookies, who then put some pressure on the league to make a change? Would switching to a weighted lottery system, a la the one used by the NFL, actually tamp down on teams looking to punch their ticket to the Island of Relevancy by landing a superstar quarterback? Would teams like the Texans, who maybe like players like Bryce Young but love USC’s Williams, draft a player like Will Anderson Jr. at the top of the 2023 NFL draft to then turn around and select their quarterback after another year of losing in 2024 – a sort of Jacksonville Jaguars but in reverse strategy? Only time will tell, but if folks start to complain that, more so than the “integrity of the game,” it has a chance to really force a change.

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Matt Lucas

Writer by day and an aspiring Artist by night. Creative thinking is what I'm all about. Lottos are one of my passions and I'm happy to be contributing to Lottery Papa News

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