NFL Draft winners and losers: No excuses as Bears have set up Caleb Williams to be good right away

Bryce Young didn't have a chance with the Carolina Panthers last season.

We'll see if last year's No. 1 overall draft pick develops into a star quarterback, but he struggled last season. There were reasons, most notably a Carolina Panthers infrastructure that gave him almost nothing to work with. The Panthers were deficient at practically every offensive position.

Caleb Williams, this year's first overall pick, won't have that excuse.

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The Chicago Bears are putting Williams in an unusually friendly situation for a rookie quarterback who will start from Day 1. Usually when a team drafts No. 1, it is horrible. The Bears weren't. They just happened to fleece the Panthers in a trade last season and part of the bounty was the Panthers' 2024 first-round pick. That ended up being first overall when the Panthers struggled to a 2-15 record.

The Bears knew for a while they'd be drafting Williams and planned accordingly. They already had DJ Moore, a true No. 1 receiver, whom they got in that trade with the Panthers. They drafted right tackle Darnell Wright in the first round last season, and while he had ups and downs as a rookie, the future seems bright.

Then, this offseason, the Bears traded for receiver Keenan Allen and his 10,530 career receiving yards, signed running back D'Andre Swift and then on Thursday night they drafted Washington receiver Rome Odunze with the ninth overall pick. There aren't many receiver rooms in the NFL better than Moore, Allen and Odunze. Swift and tight end Cole Kmet aren't bad either. And the line has two young tackles and should get better too.

The Bears could have drafted a defensive player with the ninth overall pick. But they're all in on making sure Williams has success right away. That's smart. It doesn't hurt that Odunze and Williams seemed to hit it off over the offseason and already have started to build chemistry.

Caleb Williams earned a fire emoji in the Yahoo Sports app from pretty much everyone, including our experts.
Caleb Williams earned a fire emoji in the Yahoo Sports app from pretty much everyone, including our experts.

The Bears are an unlikely franchise to lay such a positive foundation for a rookie quarterback. Chicago has never gotten the quarterback position right, unless you count Sid Luckman in 1939. But this is what every NFL team dreams of when we talk about setting their young quarterback up for success. The Bears got creative to squeeze the desperate Panthers to get Moore. They took advantage of the Los Angeles Chargers' salary-cap issues to get Allen in a trade. They spent on Swift to help the running game. Then they caught a nice break when Odunze — a player some analysts thought was on the same tier with über-prospect Marvin Harrison Jr. — fell to No. 9. Odunze is a good route runner with great hands and can grow with Williams. And Moore still has some good years left at age 27. Justin Fields had almost nothing around him when he broke into the lineup, but the Bears corrected that problem in just a few years.

The Bears were good in the second half of last season. A team drafting a quarterback with the first overall pick rarely has realistic hopes of making the playoffs, but the Bears should. More important than that, they've set up their rookie quarterback for immediate success. Finally, after decades of failure, the Bears might be doing this whole quarterback thing the right way.

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from the first round of the draft:

Daniel Jones: Jones had to have a very nervous 10 minutes when the New York Giants went on the clock with the No. 6 pick.

The Giants had reportedly tried to move up to No. 3, presumably to draft a quarterback, according to NFL Media. That didn’t happen, as the New England Patriots stayed put and took Drake Maye.

But J.J. McCarthy was still on the clock when the Giants were up. So was Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix, who all ended up being top 12 picks. And the Giants passed.

More than that, the Giants took LSU receiver Malik Nabers, filling a massive need with an extremely talented player. Unless the Giants have a secret plan at quarterback before Week 1, Jones will have another shot to live up to his big contract. That was in question, especially after Jones tore his ACL last season. And he'll have a fantastic rookie receiver to help him.

The Giants calling about the No. 3 pick says they're not completely sold on Jones being their quarterback of the future. But Jones is still their presumed quarterback for 2024, which is a big win for him.

Kevin O'Connell: The Minnesota Vikings didn't want to go into the season with Sam Darnold at quarterback. And they couldn't have known how Thursday's first round would fall.

The Vikings reportedly wanted to trade up for Drake Maye, but that wasn't happening. There was speculation that J.J. McCarthy could go in the top five or six. That didn't happen either.

When McCarthy fell to No. 10, the Vikings pulled off a fairly low-cost trade with the New York Jets to move up one spot and take McCarthy.

McCarthy, like Caleb Williams, lands in a good spot. Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson (when he's healthy off a torn ACL) give McCarthy some excellent targets. And O'Connell is a very good coach who should get the most out of his quarterback, especially one with McCarthy's tools.

Being at the bottom at quarterback can ruin any coach. The Vikings didn't know before Thursday what their quarterback situation would look like this season. O'Connell can rest a little easier after the Vikings landed McCarthy.

Laiatu Latu and the Indianapolis Colts: The best story of the first round might have been Latu, a UCLA edge rusher who was taken 15th overall by the Colts. He might end up as one of the best players too.

In 2021, after Latu had sat out the 2020 season, then-University of Washington head coach Jimmy Lake announced Latu had to retire due to his neck injury. About five specialists, including ones used by NFL teams, came to the conclusion Latu shouldn't continue his career, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.

At that point, Latu becoming a first-round pick was nowhere near a possibility. But Latu kept looking into the issue, he was cleared by Dr. Robert Watkins who had performed neck surgery on Peyton Manning, transferred to UCLA and continued his career after two seasons off. In 2023 he had 13 sacks and established himself as the top pass-rushing prospect in the draft.

There's risk in taking Latu. It's scary to invest a first-round pick in a player who once retired due to a neck injury. The upside is certainly worth the gamble. And the story is cool too.

Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix Jr.: Jordan Love's success will lead to another round of teams drafting a quarterback when they don't need one. And there's something to be said about that.

But the Atlanta Falcons took it to the extreme.

The Falcons just gave Kirk Cousins a four-year, $180 million deal. Then they stunned the NFL world by drafting Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 overall pick. They can comfortably get out of Cousins' deal after two years and hand things over to Penix, and maybe that all works out. But it will be an awkward two years.

Cousins was reportedly surprised by the pick, and he should be. That eighth pick could have been someone like receiver Rome Odunze, an elite offensive line prospect or some defensive help that would help Atlanta win now. Now Cousins has his replacement over his shoulder and if he struggles, Atlanta fans don't have any goodwill built up with him and could cry for Penix to take over. For Penix, being the eighth pick of the draft is great but he also is looking at a scenario in which he doesn't play any meaningful snaps for two years. That's frustrating, especially considering Penix will be 24 years old in May, and 26 in 2026 when he might take over as Atlanta's starter. That's old for a first-time starter.

The Falcons put both quarterbacks in a tough spot. The clock is already ticking on Cousins before he ever takes a snap for Atlanta. Penix has to wait because $180 million quarterbacks are rarely benched. It could all work out, but the pick was a big surprise to everyone for a reason.

Las Vegas Raiders, at least at QB: The Raiders could not have assumed that six quarterbacks would be off the board by the time they went on the clock with the 13th overall pick. They were the team to lose the game of quarterback musical chairs.

The Raiders struck out on all the first-round quarterbacks when six went in the first 12 picks. The Falcons' pick of Michael Penix Jr. negatively affected the Raiders more than any other team. Still, the Raiders ended up with a very good player, tight end Brock Bowers at No. 13. And when the Raiders find their quarterback, they'll be happy they have Bowers for that QB to throw to.

But it's still more waiting at the most important position. Gardner Minshew will start for a season, and that's fine as a bridge quarterback. But that couldn't have been the Raiders' dream scenario as the draft started.

Buffalo Bills: It's hard to figure out what the Bills are doing.

They badly need a receiver after trading Stefon Diggs this offseason. And while there are plenty of good receivers still available for the second day of the draft, they kept moving back while other teams grabbed wideouts.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02: Texas Longhorns wide receiver Xavier Worthy (#1) runs up field after a catch during the Big 12 Championship football game between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma State Cowboys on December 02, 2023 at AT&T Studium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Bills had the 28th pick and traded it to the Kansas City Chiefs, the team they're chasing in the AFC, and the Chiefs took receiver Xavier Worthy.

Worthy set a record for the fastest recorded 40-yard dash time in NFL scouting combine history and might be a great fit for the Chiefs. The Bills then traded the 32nd pick to the Carolina Panthers for the 33rd pick, and got just a late-round pick swap back in return. That seems like very little reward to give up the valuable fifth-year option attached to rookie contracts in the first round. The Panthers took receiver Xavier Legette. And while the Bills were moving down, the San Francisco 49ers took receiver Ricky Pearsall 31st overall.

The Bills will presumably take a receiver, perhaps with the first pick of the second round (Ladd McConkey anyone?). But their approach Thursday night was confusing.

Fans of NFL Draft chaos: Sure, the Falcons gave us all a jolt. But the rest of the first round seemed oddly solid.

There weren't the double-digit number of trades some predicted. Just a few. Most of the picks seemed to fit needs very well, like offensive lineman J.C. Latham to the Tennessee Titans, cornerback Quinyon Mitchell to the Philadelphia Eagles or cornerback Terrion Arnold to the Detroit Lions. There were a few reaches, but nothing that had anyone freaking out.

Not all the first-round quarterbacks will hit, but every pick made sense and the only trade up for one came from the Vikings, who didn't pay that much to move up one spot for J.J. McCarthy.

If you expected a wild first round, that never happened. Falcons fans probably disagree.