2024 NFL Combine preview: How UNC’s Drake Maye can solidify his stock at top of draft

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Drake Maye’s NFL Draft journey will reach a major milestone this week, as the North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback and 320 other draft prospects will participate in team interviews and field drills at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

Maye, a Myers Park High School alum, has long been considered a top-three quarterback in the draft class, and his work this week could solidify — if not strengthen — that positioning heading into April’s selection process.

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, now the lead draft analyst for NFL Media, has paired Maye with the Washington Commanders with the second overall pick in both of his offseason mock drafts entering the scouting combine. Jeremiah has Maye ranked as the second-best quarterback prospect — behind Southern California’s Caleb Williams — and the fifth-best prospect overall in the draft class.

But Jeremiah says Maye still has some questions to answer as he enters the home stretch of the evaluation process.

If the Huntersville native can put evaluators at ease with his physical performance on the field and his responses in the interview room, Jeremiah believes Maye could help himself out and solidify his standing near the top of draft board.

“The one thing physically, and I know in talking to his quarterback coach, David Morris — who does a really good job — I thought there were times this year compared to last year where he got a little elongated, a little long with his delivery,” Jeremiah said on a conference call with media on Thursday. “I know they’ve been working on that. That would be the physical thing I’m looking forward to seeing, whether that’s at the combine or his pro day. Just seeing if he has been able to tighten that up a little bit.”

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) warms up for the Tar Heels game against N.C. State on Saturday, November 25, 2023 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) warms up for the Tar Heels game against N.C. State on Saturday, November 25, 2023 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

“Then the second thing is going to be just meeting with teams,” Jeremiah continued. “I think it will be helpful for him to explain some things, because when I watch the tape I have questions of just, man, he gets a lot of unblocked pressures, and there doesn’t seem to be answers. Whether that’s a hot route, whether that’s in terms of what they’re doing protection-wise to help him out — that’s something when you are watching tape, I’m watching it going, ‘Man, I would love to sit down with him and go through this and say, did they give you the answers here? Is this something you could have done here? Is this something on the outside that wasn’t corrected?’

“I feel like there’s a lot of times when I’m watching him with pressure in his face, and I freeze it and say I don’t know where the heck he is supposed to go with this thing. That will be something he can do to help himself to go through the tape and explain it to teams.”

Despite those pre-combine concerns, Jeremiah, a former Appalachian State quarterback, says Maye has all of the physical tools of a strong quarterback prospect in a very good class for the position.

Said Jeremiah: “The ability, the size, the arm strength, the athleticism, the play-making stuff, it’s all there.”

UNC’s Walker, Clemson’s Shipley among N.C. natives participating

North Carolina’s Devontez Walker (9) pulls in a 43-yard pass completion from quarterback Drake Maye ahead of Clemson’s Nate Wiggins (2) in the first quarter on Saturday, November 18, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com
North Carolina’s Devontez Walker (9) pulls in a 43-yard pass completion from quarterback Drake Maye ahead of Clemson’s Nate Wiggins (2) in the first quarter on Saturday, November 18, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

Delmar Glaze, OT, Maryland (Charlotte)

Cedric Gray, LB, UNC (Charlotte)

Sam Hartman, QB, Notre Dame (Charlotte)

Ty’Ron Hopper, LB, Missouri (Shelby)

Joshua Karty, K, Stanford (Burlington)

Drake Maye, QB, UNC (Huntersville)

Jacob Monk, OL, Duke (Clayton)

Myles Murphy, DE, UNC (Greensboro)

Malik Mustapha, DB, Wake Forest (Charlotte)

Will Shipley, RB, Clemson (Weddington)

Devontez Walker, WR, UNC (Charlotte)

Payton Wilson, LB, NC State (Hillsborough)

Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee (Durham)

Panthers’ 2024 draft picks

Panthers new head coach Dave Canales, right, listens to Panthers GM Dan Morgan during the introduction of the new coach Thursday morning, Feb. 01, 2024. Khadejh Nikouyeh/knikouyeh@charlotteobserver.com
Panthers new head coach Dave Canales, right, listens to Panthers GM Dan Morgan during the introduction of the new coach Thursday morning, Feb. 01, 2024. Khadejh Nikouyeh/knikouyeh@charlotteobserver.com

Panthers’ 2024 second-round pick (No. 33 overall)

Panthers’ 2024 third-round pick (No. 65 overall)

Panthers’ 2024 fourth-round pick*

49ers’ 2024 fifth-round pick*

Titans’ 2024 fifth-round pick*

Cardinals’ 2024 sixth-round pick*

*The selection order for the fourth through seventh rounds will be determined following the compensatory pick disbursement later this offseason.

Previous trades:

The Panthers traded their 2024 first-round pick (No. 1 overall) — along with wideout DJ Moore and three other picks — to the Chicago Bears in the 2023 deal for the No. 1 pick last offseason.

The Panthers acquired the 49ers’ 2024 fifth-round pick as part of the 2022 Christian McCaffrey trade.

The Panthers acquired the Titans’ 2024 fifth-round pick as part of a 2022 trade involving offensive tackle Dennis Daley.

The Panthers traded away their 2024 fifth-round pick in exchange for quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2022. The selection was initially conditional — based on Mayfield’s 2022 playing time — and the lower value was assigned after the criteria for a fourth-round pick wasn’t met.

The Panthers acquired the Cardinals’ 2024 sixth-round pick in a 2022 trade involving wide receiver Robbie Chosen. Chosen was previously known as Robbie Anderson when he played for the Panthers.

The Panthers traded away their 2024 sixth-round pick as part of the 2022 trade for wideout/running back Laviska Shenault with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Panthers traded away their 2024 seventh-round pick in the Daley trade with Tennessee from 2022.

NFL Combine TV schedule

FILE - Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, left, talks to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 4, 2023. The Panthers packaged two first-round picks, two second-round picks and star receiver D.J. Moore to move up from No. 9 in the draft to the top pick to give Carolina the pick of the lot at quarterback in next week’s draft. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File) Darron Cummings/AP

NFL Network will have live coverage of field drills beginning at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Below is the schedule for the positional workouts:

Thursday (Feb. 29): Defensive linemen and linebackers (drills coverage starts at 3 p.m.)

Friday (Mach 1): Defensive backs and specialists (drills coverage starts at 3 p.m.)

Saturday (March 2): Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends (drills coverage starts at 1 p.m.)

Sunday (March 3): Running backs and offensive linemen (drills coverage starts at 1 p.m.)