Drake Maye goes under the microscope in our first 2024 NFL Draft preview of the offseason.
The 2024 NFL Draft offers promise at the quarterback position. Caleb Williams handles the brunt of the attention, and rightfully so. The USC signal-caller is fresh off a Heisman-winning campaign and is poised to become the No. 1 overall pick next April.
However, a gifted passer from the University of North Carolina might have something to say about that. Drake Maye enters his second year as the full-time starter behind center, hoping to capitalize on a breakout 2022 season. The Tar Heel star eclipsed 5,000 all-purpose yards and logged 44 total touchdowns.
Maye failed to garner much attention in the Heisman debates because UNC dropped its final four games of the season. Even with a stacked stat line, the 6-foot-4 quarterback finished tenth in voting. Now, with a chip on his shoulder, Maye is ready to elevate his squad to national prominence.
Humble Beginnings For Drake Maye
Maye was a two-sport superstar at Myers Park High School in Huntersville, North Carolina. Much like his older brother (Luke), Drake grew up dreaming of the NBA. After breaking several school records and earning four stars on the recruiting trail as a football player, the youngster turned his focus to the gridiron.
The Under-Armour All-American originally committed to Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide in high school. He quickly reconsidered and took back his commitment. In turn, Maye opted to stay closer to home and enroll at the University of North Carolina, following in the footsteps of his parents and older sibling.
The highly-heralded prospect arrived at Chapel Hill with tons of hype. Sam Howell was locked into the QB1 role, which gave Maye the chance to learn the ropes as a freshman. Few could have predicted how well he would perform in 2022.
Drake Maye Posts An Impressive Debut Season
Maye became only the second ACC quarterback to win ACC Player of the Year, ACC Offensive Player of the Year, ACC Rookie of the Year, and ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year. He broke the single-season UNC record for passing yards and completions while tying the touchdown record.
PFF graded Maye as a top-five passer in the country, including a near-perfect 99.5 grade on passes 20+ yards downfield. They credited the star signal-caller with an astonishing 45 big-time throws and an adjusted completion rate of 75.4. Maye completed nearly 75 percent of his passes from a clean pocket with 26 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
Impressively, Maye recorded 899 rushing yards and seven scores from the ground. He is not the fastest guy in the world, but his 220-pound frame is deceptively agile. Maye thrives at making defenders look silly, as is evident by his 26 forced missed tackles as a runner.
The 20-year-old redshirt sophomore played behind an abysmal pass-blocking offensive line in 2022. The unit allowed 43 sacks and regularly forced Maye to create something out of nothing. The constant pressure led to 16 turnover-worthy plays. Furthermore, it is hard to believe how often his pass catchers dropped the ball, as the official number of 20 feels small relative to what I watched on tape.
2024 NFL Draft Preview: A Closer Look At Drake Maye’s Tape
Accuracy from the Pocket – Maye picks apart defenses when given time to survey the field. He fits tight windows and gets the ball out quickly. Maye’s ball placement is superb, as he rarely puts the ball in harm’s way.
Arm Strength – Maye doesn’t have the strongest arm in the class, but he still possesses more than enough to succeed on Sundays. He consistently makes every throw asked in an NFL offense. The 99.5 deep passing grade from PFF says all you need to know about his proficiency downfield.
Multiple Arm Angles – Something that jumps off the screen immediately when watching Maye is his ability to contort his arm to fit passes around the defense. It is reminiscent of Matthew Stafford and to a lesser degree, Patrick Mahomes.
Improvisation – While Maye’s accuracy tends to dwindle on the run (more on that later), he is insanely creative as plays break down. More than a handful of times on tape, Maye made a play that few on the planet could imitate.
Running Ability – On first look, Maye seems like a traditional big-bodied pocket passer. However, once you see him out in the open field, those thoughts fall by the wayside. Maye is slippery and fearless as a runner, providing an NFL team with a true dual-threat behind center.
Pocket Drifter – My biggest gripe with Maye to this point is his tendency to drift left in the pocket, even on snaps without pressure. He typically moves left off the snap and puts unneeded stress on his offensive line to re-adjust. NFL coaching and more trust in the guys in front of him can alleviate this concern.
Accuracy on the Run – It is undeniable that Maye’s accuracy dips when he is forced outside of the pocket. His lower half gets sloppy, and on a majority of the poor throws, you can point directly to his shoulders not being square to his target.
Hero Ball – This is often the case with a quarterback that possesses the physical traits of Maye. He thinks every play can result in a touchdown, but once he gets to the NFL, he must learn to take his medicine and not try to be a hero every snap.
Drake Maye is not a perfect quarterback prospect, but he has all the chops to be a top-five selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. He boasts unprecedented accuracy on the deep ball and is a surgeon from the pocket. Maye’s ability to create positive plays out of nothing is nothing short of miraculous, although it can get him in trouble at times with ill-advised passes.
He possesses a prototypical frame behind center and flexes deceptive agility as a runner out of the backfield. Maye’s mechanics are mostly solid, but he must sharpen things up when throwing on the run. Teams will want to see the UNC signal-caller continue developing as a processor in Year 2 as a starter.
Things can change at a breakneck pace throughout the college football season, so it should come as no surprise if Maye challenges Caleb Williams for the QB1 title in the 2024 NFL Draft. I lean toward Williams right now, but Maye is worthy of being an early selection nonetheless. He is certainly not a bad consolation prize.