Could Caleb Williams pull an Eli Manning in the 2024 draft?

2004 NFL Draft - Day One
2004 NFL Draft - Day One / Allan Grdovic/GettyImages

It's been twenty years since Eli Manning said "no thanks" to San Diego and forced his way to New York History could repeat itself, this time with Caleb Williams potentially pulling a similar disappearing act on the Chicago Bears.

The 2024 NFL Draft is only a few months away, and the Chicago Bears are primed to take their franchise quarterback of the future. Enter Caleb Williams, the electric and polarizing USC quarterback, considered by most (not me) to be the top prospect in the class. However, a recent social media interaction has thrown a wrench into the Windy City's plans, raising the possibility of a scenario straight out of draft history.

Just days ago, Williams "liked" a tweet suggesting the Bears stick with their current starter, Justin Fields, and instead use the top pick on wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. This has sent shockwaves through the NFL landscape. Could Williams, like Eli Manning before him in 2004, be willing to publicly refuse to play for the Bears, forcing their hand in a blockbuster trade?

In 2004, Manning, the consensus top pick, made it abundantly clear he wouldn't wear a Chargers jersey. He cited concerns about the team's offensive line and overall direction, effectively forcing a trade to the New York Giants. The move paid off for both parties, with Manning becoming a two-time Super Bowl champion in New York, while the Chargers landed Philip Rivers, another franchise cornerstone. This was one of the rare win-win trades in NFL history.

The Bears, no doubt, are aware of the potential ramifications of drafting Williams. They could opt for a safer pick, like Harrison Jr., or even trade the pick altogether. However, the allure of landing a potential franchise quarterback on a rookie contract is undeniable, and passing on Williams could set their rebuild back years if they decide to keep Fields and he isn't the answer for them.

Ultimately, the decision lies with Williams and his advisors. They will weigh the pros and cons of playing in Chicago, explore potential trade scenarios, and make a calculated decision that they believe is in his best interests. The NFL draft, after all, is a high-stakes game of chess, and Williams refusing to play for them could be the ultimate checkmate.

One thing is certain: the 2024 NFL Draft promises to be a spectacle, and the saga of Caleb Williams is just the first act of a drama-filled offseason. Whether he dons the navy and orange or another team's colors, one thing is for sure: this will be a storyline worth following until he hears his name on draft night.

It's important to note that while the possibility of Williams refusing to play for the Bears is intriguing, it remains purely speculative at this point. Only time will tell whether this social media interaction meant nothing, or it was a sign of things to come. Regardless, this serves as a reminder that the NFL Draft is more than just a talent showcase; it's a high-stakes game of strategy, negotiation, and sometimes, even a little bit of drama.