The Tour of the Top Four: Drake Maye

by Sam BruchhausBen Brown|April 4, 2024

Share

Leading up to the draft, we will be bringing you THE TOUR OF THE TOP FOUR, a data-driven journey to the NFL draft for each of the top four quarterbacks. We will be providing you with a summary of the careers of J.J. McCarthy, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, and Caleb Williams. You can find companion discussions to the articles on The Class Play Podcast, which can be found on the SumerSports Show Podcast Feed on your audio platform of choice. 

Drake Maye pulled himself out of being sandwiched between two Pittsburgh players. Grass stains covered the entirety of the left side of his all-white away jersey. Some paint even covered the left side of his helmet. He glared down at his left hand. He did not do this as most football players do, though, as Maye had not sustained an injury. 

Instead, Maye looked at his left hand as a basketball player would after a brilliant move and an off-hand finish. 

Immediately prior, Maye had taken a snap deep in the opponent’s red zone. His helmet immediately turned to read the end. After deciding to pull the ball, Maye found himself in a precarious position: dragging the defensive end, who did not crash with the running back, on his back while a cornerback bore down on him. 

Maye saw something though. The cornerback running full speed at him had left a receiver wide open in the corner of the end zone.  

Maye reversed his tuck of the ball, jumped in the air, and flicked a left-handed throw to his receiver. The right-handed Maye then immediately took a Bron Breakker-level spear to the ribcage from the cornerback.  

The ball landed safely in the wide receiver’s hands for a touchdown. 

 

 

For many players, especially in this quarterback-heavy draft class, their college to pro potential can be summarized with a stretch of success in their career or perhaps even by their performance in an individual game. For Maye, this single play embodies all the reasons that he is a consensus Top 4 quarterback going into the draft. The mobility to be running in the red zone, the size and strength to carry a defensive end on his back, the gunslinger mentality to consider throwing a ball with his left hand, the grit to take an absolute shot in exchange for a touchdown, and the gumption to succeed at it are all things that NFL scouts salivate over. 

But at the same time, they also present a recklessness that causes pause. Such pauses can cause what is beginning to trickle into a narrative moving toward draft day, that Drake Maye may drop in the first round. Even NFL.com had him falling to #11 in its March 26th mock draft. 

For perhaps the most physically impressive prospect in the top-tier of quarterbacks in the 2024 draft, a list of questions is growing as we move deeper into the draft cycle, so let’s start at the beginning to see how Drake Maye positioned himself as one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s class. 

 

Maye grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and started his high school football career at Hough High School. After transferring to Myers Park High School, Maye caught the eye of the then-retired NFL quarterback Josh McCown during his sophomore season. That year, Maye led his team to a semifinal appearance in the state tournament. By the next season, Maye was working directly with McCown and began building his NFL pedigree. McCown attended one practice a week and every game, where his mentorship aided Maye in achieving an astounding 50 to 2 touchdown to interception ratio on the way to another state semifinals appearance. Interestingly, McCown is now coaching for the Minnesota Vikings, who currently have two first-round picks and may be poised to trade up to select a quarterback. 

The success led Maye to become a top college prospect. He was rated as a 4-star in composite, but 247 sports adorned him with a 5-star grade. Maye committed early to play for Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. 

The reason that Drake Maye ultimately de-committed from the Tide and signed with Mack Brown and the North Carolina Tar Heels is very closely related to one of the reasons he is such a sought-after draft prospect: his pedigree. Maye comes from a family full of athletes, particularly ones that attended North Carolina. His father, Mark Maye, started at quarterback for the Tar Heels in the 1980s. His brother, Luke Maye, played basketball for UNC and hit one of the more legendary game winners in recent March Madness history. Another brother, Beau, also played minutes for the Heels. And if that wasn’t enough, his mother was a student assistant in the North Carolina football offices for Mack Brown in the late 80s. 

With all that Carolina Blue blood running through his veins, Maye joined the Tar Heel football team the spring before his freshman year. That year, Maye saw limited action in a few games while sitting behind now Seahawk quarterback Sam Howell. 

 

Going into Maye’s second letter season, the starting quarterback position was an open competition. Maye split reps in spring and fall camps with Jacolby Criswell, another composite four-star recruit. Ultimately, by the end of fall camp, Maye was named the starter. 

This decision helped the Tar Heels improve their record. In his sophomore season, Maye was 10th in ESPN’s QBR metric. In many of the components of that metric, Maye rated even higher. Maye ranked 1st in total expected points added for the season, which was fueled by a top ranking in EPA on pass attempts and a top four ranking on run attempts. 

However, not all was great for Maye in 2022. Notably, he was 115th out of a total 123 qualifiers in expected points lost due to sacks. Moreover, North Carolina ended on a four-game losing streak where Maye averaged only about a 56% completion rate. This included a 39-10 drubbing in the ACC Championship game against Clemson and a tight, 28-27 loss against 2024 draft classmate Bo Nix’s Oregon Ducks in the bowl game. 

 

Maye’s platform 2023 season had the same overarching narrative as his 2022 season. North Carolina began the year with 6 consecutive wins, earning a top 10 ranking. This included an absolute gem of a game against Syracuse where Maye went 33 for 47 with 442 yards and a touchdown. Maye also added another touchdown on the ground in this game. All in all, he led the team to a 79th percentile performance in terms of EPA per dropback in a 40 to 7 blowout of the Orange. However, the season ended similarly as the one before it, as Carolina went 1-4 against FBS opponents to end the season. In those games, Maye was very up and down. In order, his team was in the 36th, 84th, 78th,20th , and 43rd percentiles for EPA per dropback according to Game on Paper. 

All-in-all, Maye’s successes in his final year were enough to maintain one of the top spots on the consensus big board. However, his analytical case to be there is shaky. The only key quarterback statistics (as provided by StatsBomb in the SumerSports Rookie Guide) that Maye is in the top 3 of the draft class are Adjusted Air Yards and Pressure-to-Sack Ratio. 

 

Perhaps this is why it seems that Drake Maye could be one of the prospects front office professionals have a much lower opinion on as compared to the public consensus. In the betting data, he has moved from the next-best option to be the #1 selection to no longer a favorite at the 2nd overall pick, and discussion is heating up about just how far he could drop.  

But, there is a huge, albeit obvious, reason why the football community seems enamored with Drake Maye: age. Every dynasty fantasy football player knows that an early age breakout at the college level points toward continued success at the NFL level. The more (publicly) analytically inclined general managers also seem to be moving in this direction, with the Browns and others leaning toward young draft picks with their most valuable selections. 

Drake Maye is one of the more traditional prospects in this draft. He has a great pedigree, is one of the younger quarterbacks in the class, and is perhaps the most immensely physically talented player of the top-tier quarterbacks. However, his performance as graded by the analytics seems to indicate that he may be overvalued. With that disagreement, Maye could just as easily be selected #2 as he could slide much deeper than expected. 

Share

Related Posts

Scouting Interior Defensive Linemen: Key Traits, Development, and Players to Watch

July 23, 2024

Brandon Aiyuk’s Trade Request: Stats, the 49ers’ Strategy, and Contract Comparisons

July 16, 2024

The New NFL Kickoff: Breaking Down a Season of XFL Kickoffs to See What We Should Expect

July 15, 2024

The Class Play – College Football 25: Best Teams to Choose for Your Dynasty Mode

June 25, 2024