Here’s What the Vikings Would Get with Drake Maye

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The Minnesota Vikings need a new quarterback to build around following the departure of starting passer Kirk Cousins in free agency. After six years with the reliable veteran under center, it is time to begin a new era of Vikings football. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be in the spotlight in the first hour of the draft when he tries to trade into the earlier parts of the first round.

Here’s What the Vikings Would Get with Drake Maye

While that deal shouldn’t be expected to be cheap by any means, it is the only way to secure elite talent at the most critical position in the sport. The candidates are Jayden Daniels, who is favored as the second player off the board, Drake Maye, and J.J. McCarthy.

Here's What the Vikings Would Get with Drake Maye
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Everyone knows the names, and most folks know some elements about the players, but who actually is Maye?

Drake Lee Maye is 21 years old (he will turn 22 in August) and was born and raised in North Carolina. He broke school records in high school and was rated a four-star recruit. Initially committing to Alabama, Maye ultimately changed his mind and enrolled at the University of North Carolina, the alma mater of his father, who also played quarterback at UNC. Two of his three brothers, Luke and Beau, played basketball at UNC, while Cole won a College World Series with the Florida Gators.

The QB prospect didn’t do the trendy transfer shenanigans and spent his three-year career with the Tar Heels. He stayed patient even when redshirted, backing up Sam Howell during his freshman campaign.

As a redshirt freshman in his second season on campus, Maye took over the starting role and had a marvelous season, guiding the Tar Heels to the ACC championship game and a bowl appearance. He tabulated 4,321 passing yards and 38 passing touchdowns, both school records. The QB added a team-leading 698 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground and was named ACC Player of the Year after his heroic season.

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Expected to compete with Caleb Williams for the coveted first-overall pick, Maye couldn’t match the production from his first campaign, and his numbers dipped as a redshirt sophomore. He still tabulated 3,608 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, and 449 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

In college, Maye collected a 17-9 record as a starter, completing 618 of 952 passes for 8,018 yards, 63 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He added 1,209 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a rusher. While numbers in college aren’t providing any context, the pros are his next step, and he is well-equipped to star at the next level.


Maye’s obvious advantage over the other quarterbacks in the top tier is his size. At 6’4″ and 223 lbs, he possesses ideal measurements, allowing him to absorb hits differently than some of his peers. He often uses his physicality in the running game and gains extra yardage by lowering his shoulder. Because of his stature, Maye looks like a franchise quarterback when he drops back to pass.

The 21-year-old is fairly athletic and a threat in the running game. He might not be the fastest and most agile player, but he is good enough to be used on designed runs and can scramble on broken plays to generate big plays with his legs. His size and serviceable athleticism make him an asset as a runner, which would be a nice change after half a dozen years of Kirk Cousins.

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One of his best attributes is his ability to throw on the run. Maye loves to escape the pocket and launch rockets, whether his feet are set or not, an opponent is closing in, or the angle is crazy. He might even be more comfortable on the run than with set feet. That’s why he can always get the ball off, even when the pockets are crumbling.

The QB can make any throw imaginable because of his arm talent, scrambling ability, and ability to throw on the run. That arm strength is extremely intriguing because it gives him a high ceiling. It helps him target players down the field and tight windows on short and intermediate throws. He will immediately possess one of the stronger arms in the NFL.

Maye is a creative passer and doesn’t always play by the book. His repertoire includes sidearm throws, shovel passes, off-balance throws, and across-the-body throws. He can also fling both lasers and touch passes. The target zone consists of the middle of the field and sideline passes. The number of different throws he makes is endless, and highlight plays can be found all over his tape.

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He can also play in two different ways: within the stricture of the offense, and if the play collapses, he can create a play on his own, using his legs to stay away from defenders. Because he always keeps his eyes down the field, he can turn into a runner but still pass when bailing on the pocket.

Important in Kevin O’Connell’s offense are timing and playing in rhythm. Maye excels at that. Although he occasionally holds the ball too long to hunt explosive plays, he mostly pulls the trigger on time and makes the play his coach wants him to perform.


On the flip side, there are some weaknesses in his game.

An often-mentioned flaw is his footwork. Indeed, it is a problem. While throwing without properly setting his feet is one of his positives, he should make sure to find a solid base whenever possible to ensure an optimal delivery. Instead, his feet are all over the place even when he has the time to do it correctly, leading to frequent misfires, even on simple throws.

Overall, Maye is an accurate passer, but the number of missed passes due to sloppy footwork is alarming. That is fixable but will take some time. Consistency is everything for an NFL quarterback, and he must work on his version of it to come remotely close to his potential.

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Another positive is his playmaking ability and creativity. However, that comes with the obvious problem: he sometimes wants too much. That mindset leads to mistakes. Occasionally, turning down a pass and trying to win the next rep is the right way to play, especially in the NFL, but Maye can be reckless, wanting to win every play. A checkdown, a sack, or a simple throwaway might be better than forcing the issue and turning the ball over.

Maye also needs to work on his pocket presence. Too many pressures turn into sacks, and he bails on an excellent pocket way too often, perhaps because he didn’t trust the shaky offensive line. Regardless of the reasons, a passer must put faith in his offensive line to get the job done. Whenever he sees a minor disadvantage in leverage in front of him, he wants to escape instead of giving his teammate a chance to recover.

Purple Bottom Line

Maye is a fantastic talent but needs time to grow. He would be a wonderful fit in Minnesota’s offense because he has the skills to make the plays O’Connell demands from his passers. His arm talent and playmaking ability would help Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison to make plays and feast on the stat sheets.

However, the weaknesses must be fixed. He shouldn’t see the field until his footwork issues and the consequent inconsistencies are fixed. The good news is that the Vikings are comfortable with giving bridge quarterback Sam Darnold the keys until the incoming rookie is ready.

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Maye might have some bust potential, but he is also highly talented, and there is a clear path to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Teams don’t hunt the next Ryan Tannehill in the draft; they want the next Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen.

Allen has been a frequent comparison, just like Justin Herbert, and it’s easy to see why. Maye’s arm talent is exciting. Allen is a physical specimen, and Maye can’t quite match that in size and arm strength. Still, Allen had some similar issues coming out of college, and the two share the big-play mindset while making occasionally mind-blowing mistakes. Herbert’s size and arm talent are comparable, but he is a mechanical robot with possibly the most repetitive throwing motion in the league.

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Drafting Maye requires a trade into the top three of the draft, an expensive deal. However, his potential is so intriguing that he is worth that type of investment for a patient organization that lets him grow for a couple of years before evaluating his game.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt