This is a guest post from T.J. McCreight. McCreight has worked as a scout, director of pro personnel, director of college scouting, and a player personnel executive across multiple NFL teams.
As the college season roars on and the 2024 NFL Draft inches closer, the biggest question will be who is taken with the first overall pick.
Some may think that USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the slam dunk at the top of the draft. Williams may end up as the first pick, but people that I speak with around the league are not convinced that this is a forgone conclusion. North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is rising up draft boards and is making this decision more difficult.
NFL decision makers don’t feel like Williams is Andrew Luck or Trevor Lawrence. Luck and Lawrence were so far superior to the other prospects in those drafts that it was not even an argument of who should go first. They had it all: arm strength, size, accuracy, athleticism, leadership, and top-notch character. Those two players were franchise changers playing the most important position in all of sports. Easy choice, turn the card in.
I decided to take a day and see for myself how I felt about Williams and Maye. I went in with a blank sheet of paper and what I concluded was surprising to me. While Caleb Williams is an extremely talented player worthy of going first overall, to my eyes, Drake Maye is the better NFL prospect.
If I were picking number one TODAY, I would pick Maye and not look back.
Drake Maye is built to withstand an NFL season. He has a strong, sturdy lower body that is essential to hanging in the pocket and staying healthy. He has a big arm and can fit the football in tight areas consistently. He can put touch on the deep ball and make throws to all three levels.
One of the important things that Maye can do so well is make throws on the move from a muddy or chaotic pocket, especially moving to his left. So many plays in a football game do not go as scripted and the best quarterbacks must make plays when things aren’t always going well. Maye is good at playing through chaos.
He is also not surrounded by five-star players, and he has learned how to play under duress, which is exactly what he will see as an NFL rookie.
The next six months will be critical for these two players. General Managers and Head Coaches are looking for one of these players to separate themselves and one of them most certainly will do so. Their Pro Days will be scrutinized as well as their on-field performance at the Combine. Even more important than that, though, will be their interviews and interactions with the teams.
People will want to dig deep into their personality, intelligence, and leadership. There have been many great players, including quarterbacks, that flunked the interview process, and it was a factor in where they were ultimately picked. You can be sure that their agents will prepare them for all the questions that they will be asked, but you can’t prepare them for everything, and their true personality will come out when they talk to teams.
I have been in many draft rooms where a coach or GM would say, “I don’t want that player anywhere around our team or in our building”. I have not interviewed either of these two prospects, I don’t know what they are like on the inside or as teammates, but teams will try to find out and it will be a major factor in their final decision.
Time will tell who will be selected with the number one overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. I look forward to watching both of these players as they embark on their professional careers.