When it comes to the measurables, Drake Maye has everything an NFL team would want in a 1st-round quarterback.

Size, arm strength and athleticism.


Poise and creativity.


High football IQ.


Family history of success.

Big-time check.

So why is it that the teams in need of a franchise quarterback at the top of this week’s draft and most major sports books appear to have doubts about the North Carolina star? Or why analyst Merril Hoge believes that Maye is the kind of prospect who’ll get the general manager who picks him fired?

The answer is simple.

Guilt by association.

You see, recent Tar Heels quarterbacks haven’t exactly fared well at the next level.

The Chicago Bears traded up to take Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2 overall in 2017. Seven years later, he’s on his 3rd team. And 2nd go-round as a backup with the Buffalo Bills.

Sam Howell hasn’t been nearly as big a bust. But he’s also fallen far short of the expectations he had before a rough final college season knocked him down from a potential 1st-round pick into the 5th round in 2022.

After a brief stint as the Washington Commanders’ starter last season, he too, took the first steps toward a journeyman career path with a trade to the Seattle Seahawks.

Adding to the comparisons, besides the fact that Trubisky and Maye wore No. 10 in college, is that the teams that originally selected those previous Tar Heels also hold the first 2 picks in this year’s draft.

Imagine the fan and local media reaction if either, especially the Bears, spend their 1st pick on another UNC quarterback.

It will be entertaining if nothing else.

But unless you’re Kevin Costner flipping picks faster than a day trader on Wall Street, winning games is far more important than winning draft night. It would be a major mistake to take a pass on Maye based solely on the passing Trubisky and Howell have or haven’t done in the NFL.

That would be like labeling Caleb Williams, the other elite quarterback talent in this draft, as a bust waiting to happen because USC’s last Heisman Trophy-winning passer to go in the 1st round – Matt Leinart – also was one.

See how silly that sounds?

As Maye attempted to point out at the NFL’s Scouting Combine in February, there’s no comparison between him and his Tar Heel predecessors besides their alma maters and in Trubisky’s case, the numbers they wore in college.

“I think a lot of people, they analyze based off the helmet,” Maye said. “I think we’re different players and different people.”

At 6-4, 230 pounds, he’s 3 inches taller and significantly leaner than Howell. He also has a significantly stronger arm and better downfield vision.

While the comps between Maye and Trubisky line up better both physically and statistically, there’s still plenty that sets them apart.

Let’s start with their college experience.

Trubisky spent only 1 season as the Tar Heels’ starter, covering 13 games, before entering the draft. Maye is much more prepared after starting 24 games over 2 seasons.

Trubisky ran a spread offense at UNC under then-coach Larry Fedora and offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic. Maye led a more pro-style attack under Hall of Famer Mack Brown and 2 different coordinators.

Maye is more mobile and has better decision-making skills.

He also has the advantage of being mentored by coaches with pro experience. Offensive analyst Clyde Christensen, who has 2 Super Bowl rings from his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, knows what it takes for a quarterback to succeed in the NFL, having worked with the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.

Then there’s Maye’s mental makeup.

He’s smart, confident but not cocky and cool under pressure. He’s a good teammate and a student of the game. And he comes from a family that knows all about winning.

His father, Mark, led the Tar Heels to an Aloha Bowl bid in 1986. Two of his brothers won national championships while they were in college – Cole in baseball at Florida and Luke in basketball with UNC.

This year’s quarterback class is considered by most to be the best and deepest in recent memory. In addition to Maye and Williams, 2023 Heisman winner Jayden Daniels, Michael Penix Jr., JJ McCarthy and Bo Nix all considered potential franchise players likely to go in the 1st round.

Teams will have their choice, based on their offensive styles and physical preferences.

Williams is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick and the oddsmakers have set Daniels as the most likely 2nd selection. Even so, Maye doesn’t figure to fall any farther than 3rd overall to the New England Patriots. Or another team that trades up to get him.

Draft nights don’t always go as expected, though.  Just ask Aaron Rogers or more recently, Will Levis. There’s always at least 1 player every year left to sit alone in agony in the green room for hours before his name is finally called.

It’s doubtful Maye will suffer such a fate.

But if any teams do decide to take a pass on him, especially if it’s because of where he went to college and who came before him, there’s a better chance they’ll eventually live to regret it.

Cover photo of Mitch Trubisky (left) and Drake Maye.