North Carolina QB Drake Maye is heading to the NFL.
The redshirt sophomore announced Monday that he won’t play in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl and will declare for the 2024 NFL Draft. Maye and USC’s Caleb Williams are considered the top two quarterbacks in the draft class and could be chosen with the top two picks this spring.
“Thank you Coach [Mack] Brown, for the opportunity to live out my dream of playing quarterback in Carolina Blue,” Maye said in his statement. “To the rest of the coaching staff and support staff, thank you for the countless hours of helping me along the way.”
Maye has been North Carolina’s starting quarterback for the past two seasons after appearing in four games during 2021. He was immediately one of the best quarterbacks in college football in 2022 as he was 342-of-517 passing for 4,321 yards and 38 TDs with seven interceptions.
This season, Maye is 269-of-425 passing for 3,608 yards and 24 TDs to nine interceptions. He’s also been a rushing threat; Maye rushed for 698 yards and seven scores in 2022 and 449 yards and nine TDs in 2023.
Maye opened the 2023 season completing at least 70% of his passes in each of North Carolina’s first five games. His performance tailed off at the end of the season as North Carolina lost four of its final six games to fall out of ACC title contention. Maye threw four touchdowns and four interceptions across the final three games of the season.
Maye was a four-star recruit in the class of 2021 and the No. 9 pro-style QB in the country. His father Mark played football at North Carolina in the 1980s and his brother Luke was a star on the men’s basketball team from 2015-19.
Williams is not playing in the Holiday Bowl against Louisville, though he has not officially declared for the draft. Once he does — it’s likely he’ll do so given he’s skipping the bowl game — the draft discussion surrounding Maye and Williams can begin in earnest.
Whoever goes first among the two may end up being determined by who gets the first overall pick in the draft. Right now, that pick would belong to the Chicago Bears via the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have the worst record in the NFL and traded their 2024 first-round pick to the Bears to move up to No. 1 and draft former Alabama QB Bryce Young earlier this year.
With Maye not playing in the bowl game, backup QB Conner Harrell is likely to start against West Virginia on Dec. 27. Harrell appeared in four games in 2023 and has thrown six passes and rushed five times. Both North Carolina and West Virginia enter the game at 8-4.