As Cardinals settle in NFL standings, Drake Maye rises and Caleb Williams falls in mock drafts

Nov 2, 2023, 12:03 PM

Drake Maye, North Carolina...

Drake Maye #10 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks to pass against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals are one of two one-win teams eight weeks into the 2023 NFL season and have the worst record by percentage.

Kyler Murray should be incoming this week or the next, and that figures to improve Arizona’s chances at winning moving forward.

But as they are, the Cardinals have strong odds to own the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, where it was long believed to be worth tanking for USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams. The Cardinals have settled at the bottom of the standings nearly halfway through the year, but Williams suddenly isn’t the sure-fire pick to go No. 1 overall.

North Carolina’s Drake Maye has narrowed the gap and, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and Yahoo! Sports’ Charles McDonald, is the top prospect.

Brugler has Maye atop his big board.

Cut from the same cloth as Justin Herbert, Maye (2,559 yards passing, 22 total TDs) continues to impress with his on-field command despite inconsistent help around him. A tall, well-put-together athlete, he has an explosive release with the touch to threaten every level of the field.

He still makes a few more reckless decisions than you’d want, but his timing has improved, and his aggressive decision-making is more of a strength than a weakness.

Brugler has had Maye and Williams close in his evaluations for a while.

It was never fair, he argues, to call Williams a “generational” talent.

Williams’ situation at USC has made for a season of relative struggles, if a 68% completion rate and 25-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio are worth complaining about. Writes Brugler:

Williams is fantastic at navigating chaos, but he does hold the ball too long at times. Often he has no choice, either because a defense gets immediate pressure with its front four or his receivers haven’t created separation. And when that happens, Williams feels forced to put on the superhero cape, which can lead to negative plays.

With the bar set so high, it can be easy to call Williams “overrated” after a mistake, but let’s not lose sight of his tremendous strengths as a player.

McDonald tabs Maye higher than Williams on a mock draft, with the UNC product going to the Cardinals at No. 1 overall.

This may be a surprise, but Maye isn’t a consolation prize for teams that don’t get Caleb Williams. He’s a bona fide prospect worthy of the first overall draft pick with huge upside, and his floor might be higher than Williams’ based on recent games. The Cardinals still have to make a decision on Kyler Murray, but if they trade him, Maye makes a lot of sense.

Of course, the trade deadline passed with Arizona shipping off this year’s only starting quarterback, Joshua Dobbs, to the Minnesota Vikings.

By the looks of it, Murray has a very real shot to show the Cardinals’ new regime that he is the quarterback of the future. If he does so, it will make them think hard about what to do with the first-round draft pick — and that of the Houston Texans (3-4).

Should Murray look like the difference-maker he’s been, Arizona will likely not earn that top overall choice in 2024. But lingering in the top-five will still lead to bountiful things, whether it’s Maye, Williams or Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. still being there when they select.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Arizona Cardinals

Marquise Brown...

Arizona Sports

Report: Cardinals’ Marquise Brown, Trey McBride expected to play vs. Steelers

Cardinals pass catchers Marquise Brown and Trey McBride are expected to play against the Steelers, according to Adam Schefter. 

56 minutes ago

Zach Pascal...

Arizona Sports

Cardinals elevate 3 players to active roster after Zach Pascal doesn’t travel to Pittsburgh

The Arizona Cardinals are elevating a trio of players from the practice squad to the full roster ahead of Sunday's game against the Steelers.

11 hours ago

Marvin Harrison Jr. #18 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish d...

Stephen Gugliociello

Cardinals target Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. in Brugler’s 2024 NFL mock draft

In its first 2024 NFL Mock Draft, The Athletic's Dane Brugler has Arizona taking an impact skill player at No. 2 overall.

17 hours ago

Kei'Trel Clark at practice...

Tyler Drake

Kei’Trel Clark ‘grateful’ for benching that made him better player, person

Arizona Cardinals rookie cornerback Kei'Trel Clark views his recent benching as anything but a negative. Instead, he's better for it.

1 day ago

Trey McBride and Zach Ertz chat midgame...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ waiving of Zach Ertz a product of Trey McBride’s emergence, outside interest

Trey McBride's upped play wasn't the only factor that went into the Cardinals' decision to waive TE Zach Ertz this week.

1 day ago

Michael Wilson and Marco Wilson...

Arizona Sports

Cardinals-Steelers injury report: Arizona’s Michael Wilson, 2 others out

The Arizona Cardinals will be without wide receiver Michael Wilson and cornerbacks Starling Thomas and Antonio Hamilton against the Steelers.

2 days ago

As Cardinals settle in NFL standings, Drake Maye rises and Caleb Williams falls in mock drafts