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Lazar's Pro Day Tour: Inside Drake Maye's Showcase and More Patriots Tidbits From North Carolina's Pro Day

The highly coveted prospect from North Carolina solidified himself as one of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft class on Thursday. 

UNC Quarterback Drake Maye throws the ball at North Carolina's NFL Pro Day in Chapel Hill, N.C.
UNC Quarterback Drake Maye throws the ball at North Carolina's NFL Pro Day in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – The second stop on our Pro Day tour in hopes of seeing the Patriots quarterback of the future took us to Tar Heel land on Thursday afternoon.

Pro Days and reactions from Pro Day workouts might be the most polarizing aspect of the draft process. The bottom line is that the tape is king, and your opinion on a quarterback prospect shouldn't sway drastically based on how a player threw at their Pro Day. If you had Drake Maye as QB2, he should still be QB2, regardless of what you saw.

Still, there's a reason these showcases take place. Some of it is for the schools to hype their programs for incoming recruits and future NFL prospects. There's also some truth to the fact that a lousy Pro Day can hurt more than a good showing helps a prospect's stock.

Ultimately, the real-world implication it has on a prospect's pro outlook is that this is an opportunity for Maye, Daniels, or whoever to show teams their strengths: what do they do best for an NFL coaching staff to build an offense around their skill set? If you want to put your nose up to Pro Days, chalking them up to meaningless, non-competitive workouts, then fine. Be my guest. To each their own, I'm not here to convince you otherwise.

However, it is a piece of the puzzle during the pre-draft process, and every piece counts for something. Furthermore, these workouts come off differently in person than they do on TV. I've always watched Pro Days at home like the rest of you, but I was lucky enough to be at Daniels and Maye's workouts over the last two days. Let me tell you: it hits differently live.

With nine Patriots staffers in attendance, Maye solidified himself as a top-three overall player in this draft on Thursday. He did so by showing what he does best, airing it over 60-plus yards from moving pockets and different platforms/arm angles with ease. His drive throws on seams, in-breakers, and skinny posts were on his receivers in a hurry, and Maye's deep ball was excellent once he settled into the 70-throw script.

Maye can flat-out spin it, and the degree of difficulty far exceeded what we saw in Baton Rouge a day earlier from Daniels. That's not to say the reigning Heisman Trophy did poorly or that Maye was perfect because the UNC quarterback had two erratic misses on deep outs early. However, Maye's coaches were simulating pressure by "blitzing" him to move him off his spot, forcing him to throw off-platform, adding as much of a challenge as possible in this setting to stay on time and throw accurately.

Team executives and coaches were also impressed by the workout. Along with the Patriots top decision-makers, Commanders head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters stood next to head coach Jerod Mayo and director of scouting Eliot Wolf for the entire session. It was almost like those four men knew Maye wasn't making it past them.

After watching him hit go-to receiver Tez Walker in stride on a 65-yard bomb, my immediate thought was, "How do the Commanders pass on this guy at No. 2 overall?" Washington, who controls the Patriots destiny in this draft, could fall in love with Daniels' dual-threat ability. But when it comes to who has more clubs in their bag, there's no question that Maye brings a much bigger repertoire of throws to the table as a pure passer.

Assuming they stick and pick a quarterback, New England's decision will extend beyond Daniels and Maye, as Michigan's J.J. McCarthy is a real possibility for the Patriots as well. However, after seeing the consensus top-two quarterbacks throw live, my rankings for the Patriots haven't changed: Maye is the guy if he's available when the Patriots are on the clock.

Here are other Patriots-related nuggets from North Carolina's draft showcase on Thursday:

Drake Maye Describes Meeting with the Patriots Brass in Chapel Hill

With multiple reports confirming the Patriots met with Maye on Thursday before his workout, Maye gave some insight into his meeting with the Pats.

New England sent nine staffers to Maye's throwing sessions, including head coach Jerod Mayo, de facto general manager Eliot Wolf, and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. Although college scouting director Camren Williams headed to Washington for the Huskies showcase following LSU's Pro Day, it was mostly the same crew for the Pats in Chapel Hill as Baton Rouge.

"It's been awesome," Maye said about his meetings with the Patriots. "Try to get to know them. Trying to get to know what they're about, and their championship mindset to get back to the glory days." Maye also mentioned that he had football discussions with new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, specifically mentioning an opportunity to "learn their stuff [playbook]."

Although it's impossible to know what Van Pelt has in mind exactly, the thinking here is that AVP will mimic many of the same things he did in Cleveland with Kevin Stefanski over the last four years. If true, the Browns ran a vertical-based passing system with heavy play-action off bootlegs. After showcasing his ability to execute throws from moving pockets, it's easy to see how Maye's mobility and arm talent would fit the scheme.

Tar Heels OC Chip Lindsey Offers Insight Into Drake Maye

Another insightful conversation that took place before Maye's throwing session was with current Tar Heels offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey.

Lindsey took over as the OC under head coach Mack Brown last season. Although they kept many of the same offensive elements, Lindsey did tweak some things with Maye. Mainly, the coaching staff put more on Maye's plate pre-snap to handle protections and alerts, which Lindsey said Maye has the football IQ to handle in the NFL.

The other significant change could explain one of the biggest knocks on Maye as a prospect. Before his arrival, Maye was backpedaling in his drop-backs rather than shuffling his feet under the old regime. Lindsey's staff changed that to a more pro-style approach, so it was a transition for Maye, who admittedly has unsettled feet at times in the pocket.

"For him, it was how can we fix our footwork? His drop-back game, they were a backpedal drop-back team the year before I got here. We are more traditional," Lindsey said. "It was one of those things that was different for him, and I thought he did a nice job of that."

"He was very coachable. The best thing about him is the off-the-field stuff, the intangibles. We all know he's a talented guy, but those are the things that really stood out to me."

Lindsey also mentioned the Tar Heels' current offense isn't what he'd describe as an air raid system, pointing to the heavier personnel groupings, seven-man protections, and Maye having the controls at the line of scrimmage, which isn't something most air raid teams do regularly.

The possibility that Maye simply needs more experience using pro-style footwork in his drop-backs rather than it being a bigger concern about his NFL projection was good to hear.

Could the Patriots Pair Maye with Top Receiver Tez Walker?

Lastly, Thursday's workout was a good showing for Maye's teammate, Tez Walker, who needed a strong Pro Day after a bumpy pre-draft process.

Walker is a vertical threat who clocked a 4.36-second 40-yard dash in Indy at 6-2, 193 pounds. His field-stretching ability is a plus trait. However, Walker lacks branches to his route tree beyond vertical routes, struggled to separate in Mobile, and has issues with drops.

On Thursday, Walker caught the ball well with strong hands, plucking it away from his body and showing off his 83rd-percentile wingspan. Although his hands are inconsistent, Walker's catch radius is noticeable, which will help his quarterback at the next level.

As a projected day-two pick, the Patriots could pair Maye with Walker. Bringing college teammates together in the pros has worked well elsewhere.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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