The Bears again hold the keys to the offseason, as they have the top pick in the draft for the second straight year. Much of the intrigue surrounding the team is centered around whether they will move forward with Justin Fields (and trade the pick for a potentially generational haul) or stay put and select the player that everyone has pegged as a ‘generational talent’ in Caleb Williams. However, a third conceivable outcome isn’t getting nearly enough attention: What if they prefer Drake Maye over Caleb Williams?
There is a potential scenario where the Bears trade away Justin Fields ahead of/during free agency and then make a blockbuster deal in which they swap picks with the Commanders, who hold the second-overall picks. If this happens, two things would be certain. One, they will be taking Drake Maye. And two, Bears Twitter will have a conniption. The move would certainly be shocking. Williams is universally considered the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck (with some even comparing him favorably to the former Standford Cardinal). However, Maye is no slouch in his own right. In fact, the former five-star recruit would be considered a rock-solid top selection in most draft classes.
Maye thrives in virtually all aspects of playing the quarterback position. He has prototypical size, elite arm talent, great athleticism, and pinpoint accuracy. He also displays the ability to make off-platform throws. If you look at every one of Williams’ strengths, you will find that Maye possesses the same ability. Simply put, there is a lot to like about his game. For comparison’s sake, he has a remarkably similar skillset to Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. Call me crazy, but that is a much more attainable threshold than the greatest quarterback of all time, Patrick Mahomes (the trending Williams’ comp.).
I need to be clear; this article is not a slight against Williams. There is a reason he is held in such high standing amongst the draft community. He really has an extremely high ceiling. However, like all prospects, he also has a floor. And, unlike many ‘generational prospects,’ there are some real concerns about a few aspects of his game.
For starters, Williams holds on to the ball for far too long. If the Bears are looking to move on from Justin Fields for that same reason, doesn’t it make sense they would value quick decision-making? Unlike Fields, he is also on the small side for the position (he is somewhere around 6′-6’1″). While I think this often gets overblown, the fact that Maye possesses prototypical size for the position feels significant. Finally, Ryan Poles emphasized the importance of mental toughness for the position, and Williams has received a lot of criticism in that regard. I also need to emphasize that I hate this criticism in Williams’ case, but when you’re splitting hairs between the two prospects, it is again relevant that none of those concerns exist with Maye.
From the Commanders’ perspective, it is conceivable that they would be heavily interested in trading for Williams, who was born and raised in the D.C. area. In fact, they already signed his offensive coordinator from his final year at USC, Kliff Kingsbury. If any team would be willing to move heaven and earth and move up one spot to select Williams, it would be Washington. If the Bears grade each prospect similarly, why wouldn’t they accept another first-round pick next year and a few second-to-third-round picks (and maybe another solid starter) to take Maye instead? Many may loathe the notion, but it is certainly within the realm of possibilities.
A major reason Maye would be resented by many Bears fans is because he played for North Carolina, the same place Mitch Trubisky cut his teeth in college. It’s an unfair critique, but that is, unfortunately, the nature of our fanbase when it comes to the quarterback position. It’s similar to the critique of “Justin Fields won’t succeed because he played football at Ohio State.” Ironically, many fans who would be adamantly anti-Maye also criticize Ryan Poles for not having the foresight to select C.J. Stroud last year. It’s an opinion based purely on emotion and merits little-to-no analysis.
If you are against Maye because you prefer Williams or against drafting a quarterback entirely because you believe in Fields, I understand where you are coming from. If you are against him because of where he played his college ball, then I think you need to reconsider your stance. Those takes have proven to be blatantly incorrect time and time again. Analyze the player, not the jersey.
As I said in the opener, the Bears are in an unprecedented position to improve the roster this offseason. One man is responsible for that, and his name is Ryan Poles. While not all of his decisions have been perfect, the way he has turned the franchise around in such a short period speaks for itself. He has earned my trust. If he shows enough conviction to feel comfortable taking Maye, not only will I understand the decision, but I will have as much confidence that the team is going in the right direction as I do today.