Normally, this is when I do at least one film breakdown of the Las Vegas Raiders’ latest game. However, to maintain my mental health, I have no intentions of re-watching the Raiders get demolished by the Chicago Bears.
Instead, we’ll pivot to the NFL Draft this week and focus on a prospect who I’m sure most of you are interested in seeing as North Carolina’s Drake Maye is one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s class.
So, this week’s film breakdown will focus on Maye’s Week 1 performance against South Carolina, where he completed 24 of 32 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
This first clip isn’t an impressive throw per se, but I like it because Maye makes a quick read/decision. The play call gives him two options, a screen pass to the wide receiver on the short side of the field or hitting the tight end on a hot route. He sees the blitz and as soon as his back foot hits the ground at the top of the drop, the ball is out to the tight end before the rush can get there.
Granted, the throw is a little behind the target, but I think Maye is trying to turn the tight end away from the safety in the middle of the field. Regardless it’s a 17-yard pickup for a first down and sets up first and goal, and we’ll see a common theme with how Maye handles pressure or the blitz.
South Carolina blitzes again with the boundary corner coming off the edge while the left outside linebacker drops in coverage for a Cover 4 look from the Gamecocks. Maye stays calm, lets the coverage defenders get deep into their zones and then takes off from the pocket with nothing open other than the checkdown. From there, we see his running skills as he makes the linebacker miss and picks up the first with his feet.
Now, I will say that in the NFL, this ball should probably go to the checkdown in the flat. But it is nice to see this type of athleticism and ability to use his legs.
Probably because Caleb Williams is elite and better at it than Maye is, but Maye’s ability to extend plays doesn’t get talked about enough, in my opinion.
South Carolina bluffs the blitz pre-snap here and ends up only rushing two defenders. Nothing is open as a result, so the quarterback scrambles to keep the play alive and dodges a couple of pass rushers to get the throw off. Also, he has the arm strength to throw across his body without his feet set and still deliver a rope 15 yards past the line of scrimmage for a first down.
That’s a good glimpse of the athleticism and arm strength he possesses to make those off-script plays that teams have started to covet from the position.
We’ll see some toughness in the pocket on this rep.
The Gamecocks rush five defenders with the nickel and inside linebackers blitzing while the standup outside linebacker drops in coverage. Maye stays calm under pressure and sees the coverage bust to the wide side of the field as the receiver is wide open on the slant route. He stands in the pocket and lets the ball rip knowing he’s going to take a shot and delivers a strike that hits the receiver in the hands...the ball just needs to be caught.
South Carolina was hell-bent on dialing up the heat as they blitz Maye again.
It’s Cover 1 or man coverage and the inside defender (No. 1) is going to be one-on-one with the natural tight end (No. 88) flexed out as the point man in the bunch formation. Since the defender is playing with inside leverage, Maye knows the tight end will be open on the corner route.
But, pressure is coming as the left guard starts getting walked back into the quarterback’s lap. Maye stays calm and delivers a beautiful ball for about a 30-yard gain. He could do a better job of throwing with anticipation here as that’s why 88 has to buzz his feet a bit to catch it. But anticipation is something a lot of young quarterbacks struggle with and can get better with time. For a draft prospect, this is solid anticipation and encouraging.
We’ll end with something I don’t think the Tar Heel gets enough credit for right now, throwing from different arm slots.
UNC runs play-action and leaks one tight end across the formation and into the flat. They have the other tight end block initially to sell the run fake, and then leak him late into the flat too. Maye goes with a side arm toss and fits the ball between two defensive linemen to hit the second tight end, who picks up 17 and moves the chains.
Between throwing on the run with enough velocity to fit the ball between two defenders and changing arm angles, there’s a lot to like on this pass that’s thrown right at the line of scrimmage.