Patriots QB Drake Maye's leadership, intel on draft picks

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Maye's way: When NCAA rule changes went into effect three years ago that allowed athletes to sell their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights, it dramatically changed the landscape of college sports. This is where University of North Carolina head football coach Mack Brown starts when giving insight into quarterback Drake Maye, the Patriots' top pick in the NFL draft at No. 3 overall.

"Every NIL deal, before he took the opportunity, he made sure that one of his teammates was involved with it," Brown told ESPN in an interview. "They would call and somebody would want him to represent their company or such, and he'd say, 'That's fine, but I'm going to get the receivers involved too.' Or the seafood restaurant wants to give him free meals for a year, he says, 'Great, but you have to get the offensive line too.' It was always 'somebody on this team is going to do it with me.' That's just kind of the kid he is."

The approach extended beyond his Tar Heel teammates, as Maye teamed with quarterback Sam Howell, his close friend who's now with the Seahawks, to direct NIL funds to support a local nonprofit organization with a goal to feed underprivileged children.

"If I could, I would adopt him. He's that good of a person and role model," Brown said. "He wants everything he does to be right -- to his community, his team, his teammates and also to make sure he helps young people learn and make better decisions."

Maye faced an important decision after the 2022 season, his first year as a starter when he set school records for completions (342) and passing yards (4,321) and was named ACC Player of the Year. His offensive coordinator Phil Longo was leaving for a job at the University of Wisconsin, the type of change that can lead players to consider other options as well, especially with increased NIL opportunities.

"There were a lot of people with our lack of free agency, but tampering, trying to get Drake to leave. First thing he did, he walked into my office and said, 'I'm not leaving. You don't have to worry about that.'" Brown recalled. "He's a guy that said, 'I don't play this game for money. I'm going to make my money on the back end. I love this school and am going to play at this school.'"

Deep family ties to North Carolina played a factor. Maye's father, Mark, was a quarterback at North Carolina (1983-1987) and later served as a graduate assistant on Brown's coaching staff. Maye's mother, Aimee, also attended UNC, along with brothers Luke (a key part of the 2017 national championship basketball team) and Beau (his roommate whom he refers to as his best friend). Another brother, Cole, attended University of Florida and won a baseball national championship.

When Maye took part in the Patriots' traditional photo for the first-round pick at Gillette Stadium on Friday, he had his brothers alongside him, in addition to his girlfriend, Ann Michael (they've been dating since the seventh grade).

"This is my squad," Maye said. "If you're getting me, you're getting them."

Brown called it a very proud moment, reflective of a player he refers to as "one of the best leaders I've ever been around."

"He's not a baby. He'll snap back if something is not fair, and he'll have a quip every now and then with a grin on his face," he said. "But he's about as perfect a person as you could put in one of those positions. It helps our game when somebody who does everything right is that talented and handles himself in that manner."

2. QB plan: Now that the Patriots have Maye, a high-ranking executive from an NFL team opined that arguably the most important thing for them to do is clarify the roles of coaches in his development.

The Patriots have offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney, senior assistant Ben McAdoo and former assistant quarterbacks coach Evan Rothstein on staff. The thought is that too many voices in Maye's ear -- given his limited playing experience (26 career starts) and youth (21 years old) -- could be counterproductive.

3. Blocked by Bills: The Patriots had a trade offer on the table to the Bills late in the first round on Thursday night, according to a source. The Bills were at pick No. 32 (after a trade back with the Chiefs), but instead of dealing with their AFC East rival Patriots for No. 34, they chose Carolina's offer to slide back one spot to No. 33.

Receivers Xavier Legette and Keon Coleman were selected at 32 and 33 before the Patriots traded back from 34, so one can deduce the Patriots had either Legette or Coleman as their target -- or possibly both. My hunch is Legette.

4. Polarizing Polk: Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf told reporters late Friday that the team would have selected Washington receiver Ja'Lynn Polk at No. 34 but believed it could trade back to No. 37 and still land him.

An AFC personnel source opined that Polk's grade among teams likely varied with more volatility than other receivers based on how teams viewed the stiffness in his route running and lack of consistent separation. But his toughness, competitiveness and ball skills are excellent, the source said. Additionally, the Patriots had what they felt was unique insight as receivers coach Tyler Hughes spent last season on Washington's staff.

5. Wallace intel: Offensive tackle Caedan Wallace, who the Patriots selected in the third round (No. 68), played all but six of his 1,282 collegiate snaps at right tackle, but Wolf believes he has the ability to play on the left side. One AFC offensive line coach from another team said he liked Wallace more than his team's personnel staff did, noting that the run at the position had his squad considering Wallace around the same time the Patriots picked him. Meanwhile, Wallace's inconsistency in approach and performance (11 pressures allowed in 2023) was noted by a different AFC team.

6. Open draft room: The setup inside the Patriots' draft room, as shown on the team's website, revealed how Wolf has opened the room up to the team's full scouting staff as part of a more inclusive process. The Patriots didn't do that under Bill Belichick. Another change, it seems, has come in the locker room as Maye said there was a basketball hoop there when he visited earlier this month.

7. London calling?: The NFL's schedule release comes in May, and the Patriots are preparing for the possibility of a game in London. Two of their opponents are scheduled to play there, the Jaguars and Bears, with the club expectation that the Jacksonville game would be most likely.

8. Uche's change: In respect to his father, five-year veteran Joshua Uche has asked to be referred to by his full name on the Patriots' roster. Uche described to me a good energy through three weeks of the team's voluntary offseason program and said of his decision to forgo a more lucrative offer in free agency to return to New England: "I'm not that good with new faces. I just like to be around family, people that know me. There is no other organization I'd rather be playing football for."

9. They said it: "Come to the home stadium and bring your popcorn. That's all I can tell you all. Bring your popcorn -- I make people in wheelchairs stand up." -- Central Florida WR Javon Baker after the Patriots selected him in the fourth round (No. 110)

10. Did you know: Polk was the 10th wide receiver selected in the draft when the Patriots took him at No. 37, which marked the fastest that 10 receivers came off the board in the common draft era (since 1967). The previous fastest was by pick 45 in 1994.