Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Williams' uncertain draft status should tank tanking rumors

For months, we’ve been subjected to hearing rumors that the Arizona Cardinals are tanking to cut ties with Kyler Murray in order to draft Caleb Williams.
Aug 26, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams
Aug 26, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Since Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort refused to waste money on free agents who were one to three years away from entering their respective career twilights, he has been accused of tanking for the 2023 season. Then came his blockbuster draft day trade with the Houston Texans, which led to many mock drafts claiming the Redbirds would end up picking first and second, with USC quarterback Caleb Williams often tabbed as the top pick. 

The problem? There was only one major issue that those endorsing the “Tank for Caleb” road overlooked, next to the fact Kyler Murray’s college and pro football head coaches happen to be Williams’ coaches at USC…the fact that Williams still has another year of college football eligibility. And that was something Williams’ father, Carl Williams, made clear. 

"“If there’s not a good situation, the truth is, he can come back to school.”"

Carl Williams

Source: The New King of College Football by Sam Schube, GQ

Of course, we can all agree that Williams isn’t exactly correct here, considering the likes of Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence having gone into horrendous situations, only to become top-tier quarterbacks. The same held true for Peyton Manning. 

Even players like Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Luck enjoyed respectable careers with their original teams. Ditto for Jared Goff, who led the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl just two years after he was drafted first overall. 

But you get the point, as plenty of players entered bad situations and never materialized. Tim Couch, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell, Sam Bradford, and Jameis Winston went to the wayside early, while middlers like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray are entering redemption seasons - and for franchise stability, let’s hope Murray excels once he’s cleared. 

Arizona Cardinals wouldn’t tank for a QB who may not even enter the draft

There are 32 jobs out there to lead an NFL front office, so conventional wisdom states Monti Ossenfort is wise enough to be well aware that a top-rated quarterback with another year of collegiate eligibility may not ultimately enter the draft. And to be honest, if I were Carl Williams, I’d be lobbying for Caleb to stay in school for another season to avoid being drafted for a team with expansion-level talent if they tried to tank for the rights to draft him.

Fortunately, the Cardinals are not one of those football teams, as they boast quite a few potential playmakers defensively in Zaven Collins, Cameron Thomas, Kyzir White, Marco Wilson, and Jalen Thompson, along with a proven playmaker in Budda Baker. They also have a legitimate franchise left tackle in Paris Johnson, plus at least two pass-catchers who could wind up in the desert long-term with Trey McBride and Michael Wilson. 

So if the Cards ended up as the worst team in football, gave up on Murray, and drafted an entering Caleb Williams, then the kid at least has some talent to throw to. He also has an outstanding talent in Johnson who will eventually protect his blindside. But it won’t come as a result of tanking, thanks to the fact Arizona’s roster isn’t as “bare bones” as many think. 

But as this article has stated - no professional football team with a competent front office would ever think to tank for a player who could simply return to school. Caleb Williams has that power, and perhaps he decides to remain at USC for an extra season.