The Las Vegas Raiders are expected to be big players in the quarterback market during next year’s NFL Draft. One name that has been tossed around as a potential option for the Raiders is Drake Maye from North Carolina.
It’s easy to see why as Maye is considered one of the top draft prospects this summer as he had a breakout season in 2022, completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He also led all FBS QBs with 45 ‘big time throws’—10 more than anyone else—according to Pro Football Focus, and rushed for nearly 700 yards and added seven scores on the ground.
While the numbers are great, let’s flip on the tape to see what the Tar Heel could bring to Las Vegas.
Drake Maye with an effortless throw on the run pic.twitter.com/PqSdcGyZl5— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 22, 2023
Our first clip is going to show off Maye’s ability to execute the coveted off-script plays that have become popular in the NFL over the last few years.
Notre Dame’s defense has every route plastered, taking away all of the quarterback’s options. However, they only rush four and North Carolina keeps the running back in the protection scheme so there’s no pressure or any reason to throw this ball away.
Instead, Maye hangs in the pocket until the defensive tackle starts to collapse the pocket, and then Maye rolls out to his left and buys some time, which allows the outside receiver to break free on the scramble drill. With his eyes downfield, the Tar Heel sees the wideout create some separation so he flicks his wrist while on the run and the ball travels about 30 yards in the air and is well placed where only his guy can get it.
The fact this looks like a pretty effortless throw for Maye is part of the reason why people are so excited about his game.
Drake Maye with a perfect ball to beat tight coverage pic.twitter.com/o7Z7tk1oKM— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 22, 2023
Maye gets to throw a from a clean pocket and show off some of his arm talent in the next clip.
The Fighting Irish are playing Cover 1 here so he knows he has a one-on-one matchup on the outside at the bottom of the screen. However, the field corner actually does a pretty good job in coverage as there isn’t much room to throw to and only a perfect ball will beat the coverage.
The Gunslinger makes the throw anyway and delivers a beautiful ball that’s on the receiver’s back shoulder so that neither defensive back has a chance to make a play on it. This pass goes for about 40 air yards and is dropped perfectly in the bucket to turn a third-and-four situation from midfield into first and goal from the two-yard line.
Passes like this will frustrate defensive coordinators because the corner did just about everything right, but a perfect ball will be perfect coverage just about every time.
Drake Maye with good anticipation and a rope to beat zone coverage pic.twitter.com/1KGsaW4NR9— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 22, 2023
Now that we’ve seen one rep where Maye’s arm strength helps him push the ball down the field, let’s take a look at a rep where that allows him to exploit a window in zone coverage.
Notre Dame is running Cover 2 or Tampa 2 to be specific. That means the slot receiver running the seam route on the wide side of the field will have a window to exploit between the second and third levels of the defense. Maye recognizes this and rips the ball with some velocity to fit it between the middle linebacker (executing the Tampa coverage) and hook-to-curl defender.
This is pretty good anticipation for a quarterback who was a redshirt freshman and starting in just his fourth college game at the time. The placement of this pass from Maye is also notable as he puts it on the receiver’s back shoulder so the receiver can protect the ball and himself a bit from the linebacker’s hit.
Drake Maye sees the post safety come downhill and delivers a perfect ball that should have a been a TD pic.twitter.com/stpgiRVsxR— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 22, 2023
Here we’ll see another example of Maye’s impressive downfield passing as well as his ability to read coverages.
Virginia is running Cover 3 and the first read in North Carolina’s play call is to the outside receiver running the post route. Normally, the deep safety will stay in the middle of the field and take the post away, so a lot of quarterbacks will immediately come off their first read and look for someone else.
However, in this instance, the safety takes the cheese and tries to cheat or drive on the deep over route from the tight end, leaving the middle of the field open in what should be a middle-of-the-field closed coverage. Maye recognizes this and delivers a perfect ball for what should be an easy touchdown.
That’s a beautiful adjustment and throw, the ball just has to be caught.
Drake Maye with a nice off-platform throw against his momentum pic.twitter.com/xRJZ58S3UW— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) May 22, 2023
We’ll end with one play that’s far from the biggest highlight of our five clips but does serve as another example of what the North Carolina product can do when the play breaks down.
It’s third and five and Virginia runs Cover 2 which takes away all of the curls at or just beyond the sticks from UNC. The Cavaliers also have a line game going on which the Tar Heels’ offensive line struggles to pick up as the left guard chases the looper around the pocket.
Maye shows a good feel for pressure here as he waits until the looper gets to the top of his rush to start climbing and leaving the pocket. That timing opens up a natural lane for him to exploit while he keeps his eyes up and sees that one of the linebackers—No. 7—has vacated his area. Without his feet set, Maye makes a nice toss across his body to the wide-open receiver for the third down conversion to keep the drive alive.
Again, this play won’t be making SportsCenter, but it’s a great chain-moving effort from Maye.