2024 NFL Draft: Drake Maye, North Carolina star QB and ACC passing leader, declares after three seasons

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North Carolina star quarterback Drake Maye announced Monday that he has declared for the 2024 NFL Draft after three seasons with the Tar Heels, including two as the team’s starter. Maye led UNC to a 17-9 record, earning ACC Player of the Year honors in 2022 and leading the ACC in yards passing again this season.

“Tar Heel Nation, the best fans out there. You have made my time at UNC truly special, thank y’all. I have decided to forego the bowl game and declare for the NFL Draft. Forever and always, Go Heels!” he wrote in an announcement on social media.

Maye redshirted behind another quarterback star, Sam Howell, during his freshman season but immediately made his mark once given the reins to begin the 2022 campaign. Over North Carolina’s first two games last season, he totaled 10 touchdowns and quickly established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

He guided the Tar Heels to a 9-1 start and their second-ever ACC Championship Game in 2022. Though UNC faded with four straight losses to end the season, that did nothing to dampen the NFL Draft buzz around Maye entering 2023.

Maye was less efficient this season following the departure of top wide receiver Josh Downs, but he still passed for 3,608 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in UNC’s 12 regular-season games. He also rushed for 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons while totaling 1,209 yards rushing.

Maye’s NFL Draft stock

Maye is ranked No. 5 overall in CBS Sports’ 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings and is considered the No. 2 quarterback behind USC’s Caleb Williams. But there is potential for him to be selected even higher. In a recent mock draft from NFL Draft analyst Chris Trapasso, Maye went No. 1 overall to the Chicago Bears. Maye was mocked No. 2 overall to the New York Giants by analyst Ryan Wilson.

“The Giants are on the hook for at least one more year with Daniel Jones, who tore his ACL and is done for the season,” Wilson wrote. “But even if they bring him back in 2024, Drake Maye should be the heir apparent.”

Impact on North Carolina

North Carolina landed Maye’s apparent successor from the transfer portal when former Texas A&M and LSU QB Max Johnson announced his commitment to the Tar Heels prior to Maye’s draft declaration. Johnson assumed the starting job for the Aggies this season following an injury to Conner Weigman on Sept. 23 and made five starts before missing the regular season’s final three games due to injury.

Johnson also started most of the 2021 season for LSU, completing 225 of 373 passes for 2,815 yards with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions in Ed Orgeron’s final season as coach before Brian Kelly arrived and brought in Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels.

Though he’s appeared in game action across four seasons, Johnson should have two years of eligibility remaining. The 2021 season was impacted by COVID-19, and Johnson appeared in just four games as Texas A&M’s backup last season, which would allow him to use that as a redshirt year, if desired.

 

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