Next Pats Podcast

One area where Drake Maye shines could be good news for Patriots

A quick look at Drake Maye's passing chart reveals where the UNC product excels.

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What are Drake Maye's strengths and weaknesses, and how will his game translate to the NFL level?

That question requires a detailed answer -- especially for the New England Patriots, who may have the opportunity to select Maye with the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft if Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels go No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

Longtime Pro Football Focus analyst Steve Palazzolo is among those who have broken down Maye's film from his two seasons as a starter at North Carolina. And while Maye has his flaws, Palazzolo believes the 21-year-old QB has ridiculous talent in an important area of the passing game.

Palazzolo joined our Phil Perry on a new Next Pats Podcast to share his scouting report on Maye.

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"I think Drake Maye misses a lot of easy throws. That's a concern for me," Palazzolo told Perry. "But I look at him as just two years starting, still has room to grow, he is young. The footwork can be cleaned up.

"I think Drake Maye is one of the best middle-of-the-field throwers I've ever seen in college football. As far as the feel (of) throwing a seam route, throwing the ball around defenders, throwing with touch, layering it -- the middle of the field is outstanding. I think he's got to work outside the numbers a little bit better. That's my my quick take on Drake."

That's a bold take from Palazzolo, but the numbers back him up: Maye had an insane 99.9 PFF grade (out of 100) on "deep center" passes in 2023 and a lofty 89.2 grade on "deep intermediate" passes. His passer rating was well over 100 on all throws in the middle of the field beyond the line of scrimmage, as illustrated in the PFF passing chart below.

Drake Maye's 2023 passing chart (via PFF)
Pro Football Focus
Drake Maye's 2023 passing chart (via PFF)

Maye's excellence in the middle of the field stems not just from his incredibly strong arm, but also his ability to vary his throwing speeds, as's Cynthia Frelund explained to Perry on a recent episode of Next Pats.

"That translates well because you have to adjust to the game speed of the NFL, and you're not necessarily going to be throwing bombs down the field," Frelund explained. "You need to also adjust your speeds for intermediate throws, which is where Drake Maye really excels, and also shorter throws, which do actually matter."

Maye wasn't as effective on outside throws last season, and one of the knocks on the UNC product is that he sometimes tries to force the issue, which led to 16 interceptions over 26 games in 2022 and 2023. But Palazzolo believes Maye has plenty of raw talent to work with, which should excite Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt if they're willing to take their time with the young QB.

"I think Maye has all the ability to drive the ball outside the numbers, to throw on the move," Palazzolo added. "... He has all the tools. For me, with Maye, I think you've got to clean up the footwork. You've got to clean up some of the easy stuff. He's got to hit all of his gimmes.

"But I do think he has the ability to make all the throws."

Also in this episode of Next Pats:

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