The difference between NFL fans and football fans is most evident during the draft hype. Each year, experts praise a quarterback whose archetype fits their formula as a franchise savior, and NFL fans absorb the assessment so blindly that they genuinely believe Drake Maye is a better prospect than Caleb Williams.
The North Carolina quarterback has never won a Heisman, never won 10 games, and only has one win against a top-25 team. The win came against this year’s 6-7 Miami team before their annual descent to obscurity. While Maye served just two years as the Tar Heels’ starter, he couldn’t beat a struggling Clemson program or a weak Georgia Tech school.
The best team in the ACC this season, Florida State, wasn’t even on UNC’s schedule the past two years, yet Maye and Mack Brown still failed to win 10 games in either of his two campaigns under center. The Seminoles went undefeated, and the selection committee treated FSU as if they ran the table in the AAC.
That’s the level of competition Maye faced during his college career, but, yeah, ignore all that because he’s 6-foot-5 and comes from a family of athletes. The only legacy Maye will continue is that of foolish scouts convincing even more foolish front offices into drafting a guy purely on potential. From Trey Lance to Daniel Jones, Mitch Trubisky, and Paxton Lynch, there’s no shortage of first-round quarterbacks that become busts simply because a scout sold his general manager a bill of goods.
Maybe instead of pleasuring yourself to that 20-yard out route, rewatch the UNC-NC State games from the past two years when Drake the Great went a combined 51-of-89 for 487 yards, three TDs, three picks, and two losses. The Wolfpack possessed the ACC’s second- and third-stingiest defense in 2022 and 2023, so check out those if you want to see how he fared against quality competition.
North Carolina spent half the season on the CW, so I doubt few, if any, of these NFL fans watched Maye with regularity. If they did, they’d see a guy who looks amazing when things are going well, but can’t find his groove when the chips are down.
On the other hand, Williams faced a tough challenge all year at USC, with a defense as weak as North Carolina’s, without Jordan Addison, against much greater competition, and still, the Trojans were No. 3 in the country in scoring. Ditto for 2022 when the Lincoln Riley product won the Heisman.
I know Williams put some flaws on tape this year, but he was forced to freelance due to the sieve-like nature of the USC defense. If it’s a toss-up, I’d rather have a QB who tried to do too much — and succeeded at a rate far better than most — than the other guy.
Yes, Williams will quickly learn that injuries pile up when he goes full Superman at the next level. However, his instincts for off-schedule playmaking are some of the best I’ve ever witnessed on a college football field.
What is Drake Maye’s career highlight? One quarterback was out there running around like Patrick Mahomes Lite, while the other lost to 3-9 Virginia while only doing enough to preserve his draft stock. Seriously, what are we doing? The draft analysis is just beginning, and I already want to puncture my eardrums with a ballpoint pen.