Skip to main content

2024 NFL Draft: What We Learned from North Carolina, Washington pro days

As pro-day season starts winding a close, the final two quarterbacks of what's being called "The Big Six" -- the top group of QB prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft class -- took the stage on Thursday.

First, Michael Penix Jr. had his turn at Washington's pro day, followed by North Carolina's Drake Maye. Both might end up first-round picks when it's all said and done, with Maye a possible top-five selection overall.

Here are five takeaways from the UNC and Washington pro days as we close in on the draft (April 25-27 in Detroit).

Tune in to NFL Network at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 30 for a North Carolina Pro Day Special. Also, don't miss coverage of Big 12 Pro Day on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29.

1) Maye shows off arm. Every QB's pro day has a theme. Caleb Williams wanted to show he could throw from the pocket. J.J. McCarthy emphasized touch and placement with his throws. Jayden Daniels worked on timing and precision.

When it was North Carolina QB Drake Maye's turn to step up for his pro-day session on Thursday, the theme appeared to be: I can make all the throws.

The 6-foot-4, 223-pound passer, who skipped throwing at the NFL Scouting Combine, attempted 70-plus passes at his pro day -- at least 10 or 20 more than most QBs typically will make -- showcasing the arm talent that has made him one of the top handful of prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.

There were a few concerning misfires, but the session contained a little of everything for NFL front offices to chew on -- including a lot of good. The questions surrounding him are mostly about experience and how he'll adapt early in his pro career due to coming from an Air Raid system, but his throwing ability appears downright exciting.

"It's a really good performance," NFL Network's Bucky Brooks said afterward on NFL+. "I know it's not perfect and pro day performances, as much as we want them to be perfect, I actually am more encouraged by the misses and the corrections after the misses than anything. The talent is there. He is the prototype."

Maye started out his script at a breakneck pace, firing passes at a far quicker rate than the other quarterback pro days we've seen this offseason. There were a few shorter and intermediate misses; the most concerning ones were two overthrows on out routes in the first half of the session.

Once Maye stretched things out, he shined. The arm talent shouldn't be in question. If it was for anyone heading into today, those can now be dismissed. Maye hit on a huge "go" ball and connected beautifully with wide receiver Devontez Walker on a post route that traveled at least 60 yards in the air.

It appeared Maye veered slightly from his original script. When he missed on a pass, or there was a drop, he often redid the same route. With six or seven missed connections by my count, that pushed a 70-throw script closer to 80 passes on the day by the time Maye shortened the field and moved to the red zone to finish up.

So why so many throws?

"Just doing a full workout," Maye told NFL+ afterward. "It was my first time really showing anybody what I'm about. Combine, didn't do anything. Just did measurements and interviews. Really it was my first time working out for these teams. I wanted to give them 'This is me, this is Drake Maye,' and let it ride."

Maye might not be Day 1-ready in some people's minds, and it's unclear if anything he did Thursday changed that narrative. But for Brooks, Maye's lack of experience also can be viewed as a positive in the right light.

"Drake Maye has only played football two of the last four years," Brooks said. "He didn't play his final season of high school because of COVID. He didn't play his freshman year because of the presence of Sam Howell and he redshirted. So he's only played the last two years.

"So even though it seems that he's an older player entering the league, he's really a young player, which is why most would advocate for him sitting that first year to allow him to acclimate to the pro game to learn how to play at the high level while also working on some of those fundamental flaws. Everyone has to understand the background and perspective and make sure that they build a plan that meets him where he is so he can manage the expectations."

2) Maye's meetings. Following his extensive throwing session, Maye had better hope his arm remains limber. NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported from Chapel Hill that Maye will have a meeting "in the coming days" with the New York Giants.

The Giants, owners of the No. 6 overall pick, have Daniel Jones and Drew Lock on the roster. But with Jones coming off ACL surgery and a neck injury, owner John Mara said earlier this week that he has given the Giants' front office his blessing to take a quarterback at No. 6 if they feel that's what's best for the team.

Interestingly, during his pre-draft process, Maye has been leaning on several former and current quarterbacks, including Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Jones.

But the Giants are far from the only team showing interest in Maye. The Patriots, according to Garafolo, had "about 10 guys" to watch Maye on Thursday. The Commanders were also well represented, with offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters in attendance. The Broncos also sent out a chunk of their offensive staff, along with GM George Paton, to watch the proceedings.

There are other teams beyond that who could be in play. Bucky Brooks believes one could be the Vikings, who now have two first-round picks (Nos. 11 and 23 overall) with which to play.

"Minnesota, to me, stands out as the best place for him," Brooks said. "Kevin O'Connell is a stone-cold killer as a play-caller. You have Josh McCown in the building, who is a good quarterback developer who also has a relationship with Drake Maye from high school.

"To me, it's a no-brainer. The Minnesota Vikings are the place where Drake Maye can absolutely go and become a superstar because it's all right there for him."

3) Devontez Walker excels deep. It has been an interesting pre-draft process for North Carolina WR Devontez Walker to this point. The talented pass catcher had an up-and-down Senior Bowl week, but it was followed by a terrific athletic workout at the combine, running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash and opening eyes in both the vertical jump (40.5 inches) and broad jump (11-foot-2).

Walker had a few drops while catching passes from Maye but also hauled in some impressive passes. The rule of thumb on Thursday: the deeper the pass, the better Walker seemed to look.

"Definitely speed," Walker said when asked what his superpower was. "Being able to win vertically, throw it over any defense -- I take pride in that. I feel like I can win a foot race with anybody, so I try to make everything a foot race."

In a way, it encapsulated a lot of what Walker displayed on the field in parts of his three college seasons, first with Kent State and later -- after a few hang-ups over his eligibility -- with UNC. Walker, though, admitted he was pleased with the work he put in on Thursday.

"I feel like I did real well," Walker said. "I was able to showcase a lot of things. A lot of scouts probably had questions about route running, catching the ball naturally, things like that. I feel good about my performance out there today."

But Walker also knows he's not yet a finished product.

"Definitely a lot of things to work on," he said. "Top of the route is the biggest thing I wanted to go into the offseason and put an emphasis on, and that's what I've been doing."

4) Penix reminds scouts of his athletic prowess. Michael Penix Jr. can throw the ball with the best of them. He showed that at Indiana, then later at Washington. Penix also put his impressive arm on display at Senior Bowl practices. And, yes, Penix threw at Washington's pro day on Thursday.

But he also ran and jumped -- something most of the top QBs in the 2024 draft class have not. And, boy, did Penix remind onlookers that, yes, he's a gifted passer -- but also a fine athlete.

According to Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, NFL scouts clocked Penix Jr. in the 4.51-to-4.57-second range in the 40-yard dash. He also turned in a vertical jump of 36.5 inches and a broad jump of 10-foot-5.

For context on Penix's 40 time, one of his top receiving targets last season, WR Ja’Lynn Polk -- a possible Day 2 selection -- ran a 4.52-second 40 at the combine.

Injuries have changed Penix's play style over the years, having suffered multiple ACL tears prior to joining the Huskies. Even though he didn't miss a game the past two seasons, he ran far less than he did previously at Indiana.

Was Penix's terrific athletic testing a sign that he remains more gifted physically than he sometimes was able to show later in his college career? It sure seems that way.

5) Odunze rests on testing results from combine. Penix's top target the past two seasons for the Huskies, WR Rome Odunze, is roundly considered a possible top-10 selection in the draft.

Odunze opted not to test athletically at Washington's pro day, standing instead on his fine numbers at the combine.

There was quite a contingent on hand to watch college football's national runners-up, with all 32 teams attending, per NFL Network's Omar Ruiz. One of the biggest contingents was from the Giants, who sent head coach Brian Daboll, general manager Joe Schoen and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka to the workouts.

The Giants are clearly doing their homework on quarterback prospects, but they also could be prime candidates to draft Odunze at No. 6 overall. We know this much: The Giants certainly gave the appearance of serious interest in UW's prospects by sending so many important people to the event.

Related Content