Caleb Williams could probably use this week’s NFL Draft as a dress rehearsal. Assuming things go according to plan in 2023, there’s a strong likelihood Williams goes No. 1 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

But he’ll watch from home (or wherever) on Thursday when the 2023 NFL Draft opens and either Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, or Will Levis (!!!) goes No. 1 overall.

With little consensus about who is the clear-cut No. 1 quarterback in the 2023 class, one expected draft week narrative has emerged: should a QB-needy team wait for next year? Wait for Williams?

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman asked NFL personnel that exact question for a piece on Tuesday, and the feedback on the USC star was, to put it lightly, effusive praise.

Feldman spoke to several quarterback coaches in the NFL about Williams. One, who watched Williams on Saturdays and dug into his All-22 film, had this to say:

“He is really good. His arm is special. His play extension is special. His throw selection is special. He takes care of the ball well. The throws he makes … it’s not just the off-platform throws, it’s a lot of creating lanes for himself to throw. He’s the closest I’ve seen to (Patrick) Mahomes. He’s like a refined Mahomes. It’s hard to compare anybody to Mahomes, but he really does play like him. I don’t think his arm is quite like that, but it’s definitely special for college. It’s not quite as freaky as Pat’s, but it’s upper-level for the NFL.”

“He’s much bigger than Bryce (Young). He’s got this thick lower body, thick ankles, big, thick calves. And he plays fast.”

Interestingly, Mahomes’ college head coach (ex-Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury) is now an offensive analyst for Lincoln Riley on the USC staff.

Another NFL offensive assistant told Feldman that Williams is “by far” better than any of the quarterbacks in the 2023 draft class. Another quarterback coach said it doesn’t matter where Williams lands, he could make any situation work with his smarts and arm talent.

The 6-foot-1 gunslinger is entering his junior season and his second year with USC. In Year 1 at Oklahoma, Williams emerged as a starter midway through the year. In Year 2 at USC, Williams won a Heisman Trophy.

Quite the trajectory. Everyone is patiently waiting to see what’s in store for Year 3.