Drake Maye Is The Savior Raiders Need

Drake Maye Is The Savior Raiders Need At QB

The Las Vegas Raiders franchise has never drafted nor started a North Carolina alum at quarterback. Second-year starter Drake Maye might come off the board before Vegas gets a chance to pick, but if the team struggles as expected in 2023, the two could make for an obvious pairing.

Assessing Raiders Heading Into 2023

First, no matter how the fanbase views Jimmy Garoppolo, it is blatantly obvious the veteran signal-caller is not in the long-term plans. Journeyman Brian Hoyer and youngsters like Chase Garbers and Aidan O’Connell do little to inspire optimism toward the future of the position. Who knows; will Garoppolo even take a snap for the Raiders?

The rest of the offense is promising, namely the offensive weaponry department. Davante Adams is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, and the duo of Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow are much better than the average fan assumes. Throwing in All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs and second-round tight end Michael Mayer makes for an embarrassment of riches for head coach Josh McDaniels.

On the offensive line, Pro Football Focus graded the unit as an average group in 2022. While it is fair to say the Raiders did the most with what they had available, that doesn’t mean the offensive line is what I would call ‘good’. Kolton Miller is a stud, and Jermaine Eluemunor bookends the unit well, but the interior is a complete and utter mess.

The defense improved on paper this offseason. The additions from this year’s draft have reasonable paths to seeing in-game action as rookies. Mixing in an influx of youth to the pass-rushing duo of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones can help the Raiders field a respectable defense after a disappointing 2022 season.

Even with these positives on the roster, general manager Dave Ziegler and Co. will find it difficult to string together many wins. Perhaps the scrappy group claws out enough wins to stay outside the top five selections at the 2024 NFL Draft? Your guess is as good as mine currently.

But, if injuries persist and the team stumbles out the gates, fans will waste little time turning their attention to the stacked class of quarterbacks in the collegiate ranks. Caleb Williams at No. 1 overall is a forgone conclusion. What happens after that?

For the rest of June, we will take a preliminary look at the star-studded passers available in 2024. First up, North Carolina’s Drake Maye.

Drake Maye: The Savior Vegas Needs?

The Huntersville, North Carolina native was a two-sport superstar in high school. He earned three letters on the basketball court and a four-star rating on the gridiron. Maye wisely began putting his basketball dreams in the rearview and focused all his efforts on becoming the best quarterback he could be.

Maye originally committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide before changing his mind and staying closer to his roots. His father, two of his brothers, and his mom all attended UNC; Drake opted to follow in their footsteps.

The decision did not pay immediate dividends, as Maye got stuck behind incumbent starter Sam Howell for the 2021 season. The freshman signal-caller only appeared in four games behind Howell, patiently waiting for his opportunity.

Entering 2022, Howell was off to the NFL, leaving Maye as the unquestioned starter on the depth chart. In his first campaign as QB1 for the Tar Heels, the redshirt freshman put up historic numbers across the board. He started all 14 games and became only the second player to sweep the ACC awards, joining Jameis Winston.

Advanced Stats From 2022

Maye’s numbers were remarkable, especially when talking about his accuracy downfield. According to PFF, the first-year starter completed over half of his passes that went 20+ yards downfield. This efficiency resulted in a near-perfect grade of 99.5.

As good as Maye is downfield, he is just as proficient closer to the line of scrimmage. His >75 completion percentage on all passes that traveled less than 20 yards is impressive. Simply put, Maye can carve a defense up in a myriad of ways.

Furthermore, Maye proved to be a surgeon from a clean pocket. He completed nearly 75 percent of passes without pressure, leading to 26 touchdowns and only two sacks taken on those snaps.

As a runner, the 225-pound athlete flexes deceptive agility and a knack for making oncoming tacklers look silly. Maye forced 26 missed tackles and accounted for 899 yards on the ground, including seven crucial touchdowns. All in all, he surpassed the 5,000-yard mark and posted 44 total touchdowns in Year 1. Not too shabby.

Maye parlays this exceptional debut season into unfathomable hype as he returns for a second campaign as the primary starter. We know the stats already, but let’s take a deeper dive into Maye’s NFL Draft profile to see what makes him so special. Plus a few areas he must improve to fulfill this sky-high potential.

Why Raiders Should Draft Drake Maye

Pocket Accuracy – Most quarterbacks perform at a higher level inside of a clean pocket. This is not a groundbreaking analysis, I know. But Maye takes this to another level. He finds the creases of the defense and methodically picks them apart throughout the game. His superb ball placement is a fixture on tape.

Arm Talent – Maye possesses the arm strength to air the ball out downfield at an efficient rate. His velocity on timing routes is equally impressive, as he constantly fits tight windows and zips the ball past would-be defenders. His creativity in terms of different arm slots makes Maye an intriguing prospect.

Mobility – Maye will not win foot races with NFL defensive backs — don’t get me wrong. But, the deceptively quick signal-caller is never shy to create yardage with his legs. He forced nearly 30 missed tackles in 2022 and showed a quick first step. The 20-year-old quarterback performed several designed runs but also used his trademark improvisation to create something out of nothing when plays broke down.

Deep Pass Ability – As we touched on earlier, no one in the country throws the deep ball like Maye. Usually, when a quarterback works further downfield, his ball placement and accuracy fall off a cliff, but not Maye. He does a phenomenal job getting air under the ball and allowing his receivers to run under the pass. This trait will make the NFL transition infinitely easier.

Why Raiders Could Pass On Drake Maye

Accuracy Outside Pocket – Maye’s ability to create plays off-schedule is something to marvel at. Unfortunately, his accuracy takes a clear and noticeable dip when throwing on the run. Most of this boils down to sloppy mechanics and a ‘hero ball’ mentality. It would benefit Maye greatly to learn that throwing the ball away is a better outcome than turnover-worthy passes.

Handling Pressure – Let’s call a spade a spade. Having multiple 300-pound defenders chasing after you is distracting, especially when the offensive line tasked to protect you plays as poorly as UNC did in 2022. Still, Maye could do a better job handling the pressure. He tends to drift in the pocket if there is any inkling of disruption, and at times, he downright does not feel the player barring down on him at all.

Inconsistent Mechanics – From inside the pocket, Maye does a solid job keeping a wide lower half and squaring his shoulders to his target. But he is not perfect, as there are instances of heel-clicking and sloppy footwork on dropbacks. Most of the issue comes outside the pocket, as every poor throw Maye makes can be linked back to his failure to square his shoulders to the target.

How Does Drake Maye Fit?

In conclusion, the red flags around Drake Maye are all easily coachable. Getting some NFL coaching can help Maye unlock more consistency with his mechanics, both in the pocket and on the run. Eliminating the choppy steps on dropbacks can take the UNC legend from a great prospect to a generational prospect.

That term is thrown around far too often anymore, but his game is so well-rounded; it is rare. Maye would be one of the best deep passers in the NFL today. His accuracy from the pocket is otherworldly. The overall arm talent he possesses is impossible to quantify. On top of that, Maye’s ability as a runner will open up passing lanes and keep defenses honest.

Josh McDaniels is more of a dink-and-dunk play caller, but I suspect a quarterback with these traits would go a long way to overhauling the scheme. While Maye is fully capable of being a souped-up version of Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr, it would be a disservice to pigeonhole the talented passer into a quick-hitter attack.

Armed with a magnificent assortment of weapons, plus an offensive line that has the potential to greatly improve, Maye would feasibly challenge for the starting role this year if he was on the Vegas roster. If the Raiders can snag the leader from Chapel Hill next April, they should run the card to the podium.

*Top Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Outsiders Edge: Patience And Maturity Go Hand-In-Hand For Las Vegas Raiders Interior Defensive Line

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