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NFL Combine: Could Drake Maye be the next Justin Herbert?

NFL Combine Drake Maye Justin Herbert

As the NFL Combine kicks off in Indianapolis on Wednesday, quarterbacks will be front and center. The consensus top three prospects are Heisman Trophy winners Caleb Williams and LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye.

While Williams and Daniels have garnered the most headlines since the end of the college football season, Maye seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

With many NFL Draft experts expect Drake Maye to be the second overall pick to the Washington Commanders, his comparison to a current NFL quarterback continues to create conversation about the rookie’s future. As he heads to the 2024 NFL Combine, what one player does Maye remind many who evaluate him?

Although every player has differences, Maye’s comparison to Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert persists. But is it fair to Maye?

What Drake Maye and Justin Herbert have in common

NCAA Football: North Carolina at North Carolina State
Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Drake Maye and Justin Herbert share similar playing styles and physical attributes, leading to inevitable comparisons. But how similar were both players as college quarterbacks?

Looking at their senior seasons, the comparison is compelling:

  • Justin Herbert (Oregon): 286-of-428 (66.8%) for 3,471 yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs
  • Drake Maye: 269-of-425 (63.3%) for 3,608 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs

Let’s dive into the areas where Maye and Herbert share similarities and why the comparison makes sense.

Drake Maye vs. Justin Herbert: Physical traits

NFL Combine Justin Herbert Drake Maye
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Both Maye and Herbert possess the size and build required to be successful quarterbacks in the NFL. Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing around 236 pounds, Herbert boasts a physicality which is a trait shared by Maye (6’4”, 229 pounds). The size of Maye and Herbert allows them to survey the field effectively and withstand pressure in the pocket. 

“The (Justin) Herbert-Drake Maye comparison’s going to be out there, and I don’t really have a problem with it,” ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper said on a recent episode of ESPN’s First Draft.

Drake Maye vs. Justin Herbert: Arm strength

NFL Combine Drake Maye
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Herbert is renowned for his arm enabling him to deliver deep passes with precision. Similarly, Maye showcases arm strength facilitating long throws and precise passes into tight coverage. It’s that ability which increases the comparison to Herbert from his college days at Oregon.

ESPN draft expert Matt Miller recently spoke to an NFC quarterbacks coach who has studied Maye extensively and arrived at this conclusion.

“He’s Josh Allen, Justin Herbert … and I think his arm is comparable to C.J. Stroud,” the coach told Miller. “Those comparisons are high praise and would be tough for new general manager Adam Peters (Commanders’ new GM who picks second in the first round) to ignore. Maye’s arm talent and mobility at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds perfectly fit the modern quarterback profile.”

Drake Maye vs. Justin Herbert: Agility

Both quarterbacks exhibit agility on the field. Herbert demonstrates mobility by extending plays, with his legs and making runs when needed. Likewise, Maye displays agility by evading defenders, extending plays and gaining yardage through his athleticism.

Drake Maye and football intelligence will be on display at NFL Combine

NFL Combine Drake Maye
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As both a college star and a successful NFL quarterback, Herbert is lauded for his football acumen,  decision-making skills, and ability to decipher defensive schemes. Maye gets high praise for his football knowledge and demonstrates the ability to make quick decisions and effectively manage his team’s offense.

“I think the thing that probably I didn’t know before is he’s really intelligent. He’s really smart. Football smart,” said Chip Lindsey, offensive coordinator at North Carolina. “His football IQ is really high. I mean, he does well in school. He’s got a great GPA and all that, but he understands every aspect of offense. From offensive line play, to who should be working to who in zone schemes, to who we’re working to in pass sets. In pass protections, he’s able to change the protection.”

Whether or not Drake Maye can get off to the kind of start to his pro career as Justin Herbert did in Los Angeles is anyone’s guess. Yet, with all the talk surrounding Williams and Daniels, Drake Maye is drawing comparisons to one of the league’s best young quarterbacks.

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