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Drake Maye landing spots: Best fits for top QB prospect, including how various NFL connections could factor in

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye possess all the qualities any NFL team would desire in a pocket passer prospect.

Maye has the stature (6-foot-four, 229 pounds), the arm talent, and the athleticism to make almost any throw, whether that’s a deep ball from the pocket or on the run. His collegiate production is a result of these traits as he was the only player in college football with over 7,000 passing yards (7,929) and 1,000 rushing yards (1,247) across the last two seasons. Maye also takes care of the football at a high level with a turnover-worthy play rate of 1.8%, tied for the seventh-lowest among FBS quarterbacks with a minimum of 200 dropbacks. 

Here are his top-five NFL team fits at this post-free agency stage of the NFL draft cycle. 

The Denver Broncos currently have a void at quarterback after releasing Russell Wilson and opting to eat $85 million in dead money against their salary cap after he and head coach Sean Payton clearly didn’t mesh. They only have two quarterbacks on their roster, and both are career backups: Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci

Denver’s supporting cast is decent with receivers like Courtland Sutton, Marvin Mims, Tim Patrick and the newly signed Josh Reynolds. Also, he Broncos’ young top running back Javonte Williams (turns 24 on April 25) is a fellow North Carolina Tar Heel like Maye. 

The only issue here is the Broncos would need to convince their ownership group to part with a number of early-round picks to trade up into the top five and take Maye, and Denver doesn’t have its 2024 second-round pick. That belongs to the New Orleans Saints since that was part of the compensation package required to attain the rights to hire Payton as their head coach. However, they do have the rights to their top picks in 2025 and 2026, which they would likely need to include in any move up the draft board.

“It was awesome meeting with Coach Payton,” Maye said at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked about his meeting the the Broncos. “I think any time you have one of the great offensive minds in there — you know, meeting with was pretty cool, and [QB coach] Davis Webb, he seemed right off the bat, seemed like one of the great quarterback coaches to play for. It was just fun being in there with those guys, getting that experience. And Javonte Williams is a Carolina guy out there in Denver.”

The New England Patriots offense is undergoing a reconstruction. They have a new offensive coordinator in Alex Van Pelt, and their top receivers are the moment (K.J. Osborn, Kendrick Bourne and DeMario Douglas) profile more as complimentary pieces and not true top options. Re-signing tight Hunter Henry provides a solid over-the-middle security blanket. The Patriots can also be active in the June 1 cuts free agency period with a projected $38.1 million in effective cap space, according to OverTheCap, which is the most in the league. 

Between its abundance of cap space and high-level draft assets, New England’s roster is guaranteed to look dramatically different from now until the start of the first year of the 21st century without Bill Belichick running the show. Maye would be a breath of fresh air from the quarterbacks who played for the Patriots in 2023: Mac Jones — who ranked bottom three in NFL in yards per pass attempt (6.1), TD-INT (10-12) and passer rating (77.0) — and Bailey Zappe — whose eight turnovers from Weeks 14-18 were tied for the second-most in the NFL. Both of them played huge roles in the Patriots’ anemic offensive attack.

“Yeah, I was really impressed with them,” May said at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked about his meeting with the Patriots. “Coach Mayo, I first congratulated him. Anytime you become a new head coach is a pretty cool experience. So, just being in there, and New England is obviously a great sports town, and to meet with them, I thought it went well. I think New England’s a great spot.”

For more draft coverage, you can hear in-depth analysis twice a week on “With the First Pick” — our year-round NFL Draft podcast with NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson and former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. You can find “With the First Pick” wherever you get your podcasts: Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, etc. Listen below!

With the Bears trading quarterback Justin Fields, the 11th overall draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago puts itself in the market for a new quarterback with plenty of assets at its disposal. The first overall pick in the upcoming draft was acquired in the trade from a year ago that netted the Panthers Bryce Young with the 2023 first overall pick, so the Bears have two top-10 selections, with their own pick being on the board at ninth overall. 

They have a true WR1 in DJ Moore, and they put their cap space to good use in free agency, signing Eagles Pro Bowl running back D’Andre Swift to a three-year, $24 million deal to form a strong trio at running back with Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson. The Bears also used their financial flexibility to acquire six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen from the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a fourth-round pick. 

Chicago finished 2023 with wins in five of its final eight games thanks to leading the NFL in that span in scoring defense (17.2 points per game allowed). A full season of edge rusher Montez Sweat, plus more defensive additions through the draft, could fill out the bones of a soon-to-be complementary roster for a young quarterback. Maye’s arm talent would provide the Bears with their most gifted passer since Jay Cutler, the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (23,443) and passing touchdowns (154). 

“Watching Chicago, Cole Kmet is a great tight end. You got D.J. Moore, who played [for the Panthers], I was a big Panthers fan growing up, so watching D.J.,” Maye said at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked about his meeting with the Bears. “The ability to play in those cold weather games, and they always have a great defense. … Yeah, the Bears, shoot, great sports town.”

The Commanders are hitting the reset button as they have new ownership (Josh Harris and his ownership group), new head coach (Dan Quinn) and a new general manager (Adam Peters). After a free agency spending spree, they remain flush with cap space ($35.9 million per OverTheCap), and Washington has five draft picks in the first three rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft. 

They have some solid playmakers on the roster already in Pro Bowl wide receiver Terry McLaurin, 2022 first-round wideout Jahan Dotson and 2022 third-round running back Brian Robinson Jr. The Commanders added touchdown magnet Austin Ekeler, three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz and Pro Bowl center Tyler Biadasz. Washington also had a familiar face in its quarterback room in Sam Howell — the passer Maye backed up as a freshman at UNC.

Howell got off to a hot start, leading the league with 3,339 yards passing through the first 12 weeks of the season. He finished the season ranked 12th in yards passing (3,946) but led the league in interceptions (21) and sacks taken (65) in his first go as an NFL starting quarterback. He also compiled 21 passing touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per pass attempt for a 78.9 passer rating. The adversity of the season eventually took a toll on Howell (as well as the entire organization) with the Commanders finishing 4-13. 

This offseason, Washington traded Howell to the Seattle Seahawks, meaning its all-in on finding its next franchise QB. Washington can add more offensive firepower in free agency and the draft to ensure its roster is ready to roll for its new rookie signal-caller. 

“First with Coach Quinn, it was great to meet, and we clicked right off the bat,” Maye said at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked about his meeting with Washington. “He is a great guy. Great coach with the stuff he has done with the Cowboys over the past couple of years has been pretty special. Coach [Tavita Prtichard] (the Commanders QB coach) recruited me in high school from Stanford, so he got to know me a little bit. Coach [Kliff] Kingsbury knows my offensive coordinator for college, so we got a lot of connections.”

With Kirk Cousins now on the Atlanta Falcons, Maye would walk into one of the best situations for a rookie quarterback. He would have one of the best collections of pass-catchers in the entire NFL immediately: 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson, two-time Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and 2023 first-round wide receiver Jordan Addison. Plus, Pro Bowler Aaron Jones at running back, someone the Packers utilized as a threat in the passing game for years.

The Vikings hired 16-year NFL quarterback Josh McCown as their quarterbacks coach. One of the big reasons he was able to last so long in the league was because of his highly regarded reputation as a mentor. You know who Maye’s high school quarterbacks coach was at Myers Park in Charlotte, North Carolina? Ding ding, you guessed it: McCown. He got his first taste of coaching in the NFL by working in the same capacity with the Panthers on Frank Reich’s staff, but like Reich, he was fired midseason without being given much of a chance. 

The long-standing history Maye has with McCown, plus having Jefferson, Addison, Jones and Hockenson at his disposal, would make Minnesota the best fit for Maye. The one caveat here is that Minnesota is currently slated to pick 11th and 23rd in the 2024 NFL Draft. They acquired that 23rd overall pick from the Houston Texans by parting with two second-round picks (one in 2024 and one in 2025) and a 2024 sixth-rounder. 

Teams don’t typically do that this early in the draft unless they desire to make a major move to trade up the draft board. The Vikings know they will have to pay a significant price to move up inside the top five to select him, and it appears they are comfortable with that reality. 

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Author: Garrett Podell
March 28, 2024 | 7:00 am

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