Maye's energy, ‘alpha' personality has teams taking notice at NFL Combine

Maye's energy, ‘alpha' personality has teams taking notice at NFL Combine originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was time for Drake Maye's closeup. And he knew exactly what kind of first impression he was looking to make. Instead of climbing a small set of stairs up to a podium atop an elevated platform for his media-availability session at this week's NFL Scouting Combine, he quickly leaped from the floor and landed with a thud.

Some reporters waiting below reacted audibly, apparently caught off-guard. Maye smiled as he settled in behind the microphone.

"Y'all ready," he asked? "Y'all ready?"

Maye's approach to his formal meetings with teams has been similarly high-energy. The 21-year-old has been confident and comfortable in his own skin during meetings, per league sources. While his play in 2023 may have dinged his grade for some teams, his performance in Indianapolis behind the scenes has been deemed really impressive.

Though combine meetings are relatively brief -- they last about 20 minutes -- Maye has displayed intelligence, strong communication skills, and an ability to positively impact the energy in a room, evaluators said this week.

Those may sound like small things. And it is just a first impression, it's important to keep in mind. But those kinds of traits matter at a position where leadership and a knack for elevating those around you are paramount.

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Patriots personnel chief Eliot Wolf has some experience drafting an "alpha" personality at the quarterback position in the first three picks. When he was assistant general manager in Cleveland in 2018, the Browns made Baker Mayfield the No. 1 overall pick in part because his personality was viewed as a strength that helped set him apart from others in a draft where five passers were taken in the first round.

Mayfield is an unlikely fit in New England this offseason. Despite the team's need for a quarterback and Mayfield hitting free agency at the start of the new league year, he proved last season he remains a viable starter who is expected to command a veteran starting-quarterback salary in short order. The Patriots, meanwhile, have an opportunity to draft a younger player with untapped potential and what seems to be a magnetic personality if Maye is available to them at No. 3.

Younger. Cheaper. A fresh face-of-the-franchise type. If it all works out for him.

Maye was widely considered the second-best quarterback in this year's class before LSU's Jayden Daniels earned the Heisman Trophy while Maye struggled with inconsistency at times under the direction of new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Thanks in part to the change in offense for the Tar Heels, multiple evaluators in Indy this week insisted that Maye's 2022 tape served as better evidence of what he could do as a pro versus his most recent work.

Even if Maye is able to showcase his skills more effectively in a new scheme in the NFL, there is an argument to be made that Maye could benefit from sitting to start his professional career. Scouts and coaches who've dug into his tape have identified some flaws in his game related to his mechanics and his understanding of protections -- the kinds of expected flaws for young players at that position that could improve with time on the bench.

Maye was asked Friday how he'd react to his next team wanting him to watch and learn. If the Patriots take him and sit him early, it'd be an approach that Wolf would have seen play out first-hand and pay dividends for both Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love in Green Bay.

"It's something that I think would be an advantage. There's always two sides to it," Maye said. "I think it can be a huge help. You see guys where it works out, like Jordan Love. And you see instances, like CJ (Stroud), where going in right away can be successful.

"Whatever they think. Both ways. I'm ready to go in there and compete to be the starter. Obviously going to have that mindset either way. But at the same time, these guys get paid a lot of money to make those decisions."

Patriots decision-makers have been very clear in what they're looking for at the quarterback position. They of course would appreciate a smart player with a dynamic physical skill set. But they're looking for toughness, too. Wolf and head coach Jerod Mayo have made that abundantly clear.

Drake Maye
Drake Maye has drawn comparisons to Chargers QB Justin Herbert.

Maye tried to make it abundantly clear to teammates at North Carolina that toughness was a part of his game, though he acknowledged that can be a tough thing to pull off at a position where less contact is, generally speaking, preferred.

"That's one of the toughest things as a quarterback," he said. "You're not touched in practice. People think you don't lift as hard because you're not barbell benching and people kind of call you out for it. I think the biggest thing for me was running.

"Sometimes I hurdled or tried to break tackles. I think some of the hurdle stuff I have to shy away from to stay healthy. But at the same time, I'm just competing. Some of the best impacts I think I had was after I ran for a first down, made somebody miss or tried to hurdle a guy. Those guys loved that. That was kind of my way."

The expectation in league circles is that Maye, Daniels and Caleb Williams will all end up being taken with the first three picks. And the expectation in league circles that the Patriots will take one of the three. If it's Maye they end up with, they'll have a high-energy and high-upside physical talent to try to mold and develop to get the team back to true contention for the first time since Tom Brady's departure.

"Shoot," Maye said. "That's a lot to live up to now with Tom. One of the best. One of the GOATs. Coach (Clyde) Christensen helped coach the quarterbacks in North Carolina. He coached Tom in Tampa, so just gotta go watch some old film to see how consistent he was, how he handled himself and took care of his body."