On Friday night, the Jets selected Florida safety Marcus Maye with the 39th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Maye, an older prospect at 24, is 6'0" and 210 pounds and was a second-team all-SEC selection last year. He recorded 205 tackles, five interceptions, 16 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and a sack in four years with the Gators.
Maye was a four-star recruit out of high school, where he had played both safety and running back. After redshirting his freshman year in 2012, Maye started two games in 2013 and ended up starting 32 of 45 games in his four year career.
He posted career highs with 82 tackles, five forced fumbles and two interceptions in 2015. However, his 2016 season was shaping up to be just as good, only to be cut short by a season-ending shoulder injury with four games remaining in the regular season.
Due to his shoulder injury, Maye was unable to work out at the combine, but put up good numbers at his pro day. He was clocked at around 4.5 for the 40-yard dash, 4.12 for the short shuttle, 7.05 for the three-cone drill and posted a 34" vertical.
Maye would be considered to be of average size for the safety position, but has good length.
With the Jets having drafted safeties with their first two picks, it's inevitable that we'll draw comparisons with the first pick (Jamal Adams) throughout this article.
Maye's role is extremely similar to that of Adams insofar as he would often be lined up as a deep safety but would also match up with slot receivers and come up into the box or to the edge of the line as an extra linebacker.
It certainly isn't a clear cut situation whereby one would typically be the deep safety and the other would play in the box, so we can probably anticipate plenty of interchangeability, which was a feature of both Florida and LSU's defenses.
Maye has had good production against the run and rarely misses an opportunity to meet the runner in the hole or on the edge if left unblocked.
Much like Adams, Maye displays good discipline in terms of pursuit angles and staying in his lane. Also, one thing that was very apparent during his senior year was that he never assumed his teammate was going to complete the tackle and still rallied to the ball. He cleaned up after a missed tackle by a teammate on a regular basis as a result.
Here's a great play on 4th and short which sees him diagnose the play immediately. As soon as he beats the block and then steps across to shut off the cutback lane, the ball carrier is dead in the water:
In one game, there were a few plays where he was blocked by the fullback on the outside and the running back cut back to gain positive yardage, but throughout the game that was clearly something he deliberately kept doing. It was obviously his assignment to get upfield and the responsibility of the linebackers to fill that cutback lane. A less disciplined player might try to shed the block to the inside and then get caught out by a bounce outside causing them to lose contain.
Maye made dramatic improvements as a tackler in 2016, leading the nation in tackling efficiency per PFF.
The issue before last year wasn't just missed tackles for which he was into double figures in 2015. In fact, even on plays where he would have been credited with a missed tackle, Maye often slowed his man up or got enough of his to get him off-balance for a teammate to complete the job.
Instead, his main issue was that he rarely squared a ball carrier up cleanly in space, so he'd be forced to trip the runner or drag him down, giving up a few extra yards in the process as the runner fell forwards. He didn't often stop a runner in his tracks unless he was coming forwards or downhill.
On this play, he just about trips up the ball-carrier so he can't break it the distance but he gets another 10 yards after the contact. It's clear that the issue here is that he oversteps initially and can't recover to square the runner up so he has to dive to try and contact him:
However, in 2016, he did a much better job of this. I noted Adams' textbook footwork when breaking down to make a tackle in space in my review of him. On one play, Maye made a textbook open field tackle and on a few others he stopped a ball carrier in his tracks and drove through him to prevent any yards after contact.
Maye isn't quite as smooth technically in space, but definitely seems to have worked at his fundamentals and it clearly paid dividends. Knowing this, working and competing with Adams is likely to be good for Maye as he will be even more reliable as a tackler if he continues to refine those techniques.
As noted, he has had some success in forcing fumbles. Here was an important one that helped his team force a long field goal attempt at the end of a game, which missed. He also shows good speed in pursuit here:
Maye has been criticized for his downfield coverage and there are certainly some ugly moments on tape. Zay Jones broke his ankles on a stop-go move in 2015 for example. Here's another rough moment where he lost his man on a downfield throw and then fell over while trying to recover:
However, there are a lot of good plays on tape too. When playing center field he is good at ranging over and getting a hit on the receiver, which he times well and does cleanly. He broke up or disrupted several passes like this. He also seems comfortable in zone coverages and his positional sense seems solid.
This is about as good as it gets in zone coverage:
Last year, he was targeted less, although perhaps this is because he was employed less in man-to-man coverage assignments. His coverage numbers were very good, as he only gave up a handful of catches, although they did average 20 yards. Two of these were screen passes totalling 29 and 30 yards, so he didn't give up much down the field at all.
There was one play in 2016 that shows he still has some weaknesses to work on though. In a rare press-coverage assignment, he failed to get a clean jam on the receiver and then lost him at the top of the route stem. That would have been a touchdown but was a bad throw. Ultimately, he only gave up one touchdown in 2016, having given up four in each of the previous two seasons. And if that's a result of him getting fewer match-up assignments then that's perhaps a clue as to how the Jets will use him too.
With that said, there are some positive things to work with too. You'll recall that play in the YouTube video I shared in the Jamal Adams review where Adams had poor technique in dealing with a double move? Well, there was one play where Maye faced an identical situation and used the correct technique to stay with his man. It ended up being a running play to the opposite side, but that was still encouraging to see.
As you've already seen above, Maye is capable of some big hits, but he's not reckless when doing so. He's more likely to lay a big hit when breaking up a pass than when making a tackle.
As alluded to earlier, he will rally to the ball to clean up after a broken tackle, but will cover the periphery rather than just recklessly diving on top of the pile.
He does a good job of avoiding blocks, but when he is blocked in the open field, he'll often give ground in order to ensure he still has an angle to cover the back end. This can lead to a few extra yards, but prevents the kind of big plays the Jets will no doubt be seeking to mitigate next year.
When coming forwards, he can be much more aggressive in avoiding blocks. He shows great desire to make this play:
As noted, Maye wasn't employed in press-style coverage very often. Most of the time, assuming he wasn't in center field, he would either be in off-coverage or underneath dropping into a zone.
As with Adams, his disciplinary record is good. He had just one penalty on defense in each of the past two seasons. He had three in 2014.
Maye has racked up four interceptions and 16 passes defensed over the past three seasons so he can obviously make some plays on the ball.
As noted, a lot of the time he will try to break up a pass with a hit rather than making a play on the ball. I fear that will be less successful at the pro level. Here's an example of a 3rd and 18 play that could have been caught by many NFL receivers:
Despite this habit, that's not to say he's incapable of getting his hands on the ball.
Maye's closing speed is very good and he typically keeps his head up to look for the ball. On this play he clearly recognized the play and beat the receiver to the spot by breaking fast on the ball:
While he's never had more than two interceptions in a season, he made a couple of nice catches on the two interceptions he was able to complete in 2015.
Here's a particularly tough diving catch:
It's possible he could have had a third interception. This is a good play to cover one passing lane and then transition to another, and it's probably harsh to criticize his hands here:
Much like Adams, Maye hasn't blitzed much either, although he will sometimes go after the quarterback on a react blitz if he's keying a back who stays in, or the quarterback himself.
On this play, he chased down the quarterback in the red zone and pressured his throw into being intercepted:
It's difficult to discuss Maye's instincts in relation to Adams without it sounding like a criticism because Adams' instincts are off the charts. However, in spite of what I'm about to say, Maye's instincts were impressive in comparison to other safeties the Jets have brought in recently.
His pursuit angles are good, his positional sense in zone coverage is excellent, he makes quick reads and explodes to the ball and he generally sticks to his assignments. There are occasional exceptions to all of these things, but not so consistently that you'd consider it a major problem.
This is an example of something you wouldn't expect to see from Adams, as Maye gets off his block too late and loses outside contain:
This was another play where he ended up getting caught inside, although this one was nicely designed by none other than Brian Schottenheimer, who was Georgia's offensive coordinator at the time and Maye did really well to chase the runner down and make the tackle:
There seemed to be a few blown coverages in the games I saw, although you can never be sure of who is the player at fault. On most, if not all, of these, it was possible Maye did nothing wrong, albeit that perhaps he could have recognized the issue and reacted sooner.
Here's one that might be his fault and certainly saw him expecting a run. It's possible the linebacker inside him was responsible for the intended receiver though:
Maye is not overly demonstrative on the field. He'll often make a big play of the type you'd expect to see a player jump around and celebrate but he doesn't always do this. That's not to say he never does though and he's often the first to congratulate a teammate when they do something positive.
Once again, he probably is overshadowed by Adams in this area, but scouts have supposedly praised his work ethic, character and leadership ability and his assignment-based approach to the game suggests he has a dedicated team-first mentality.
Having said that, he doesn't have a completely clean record. He was suspended along with two other players for an undisclosed breach of team rules and missed the 2015 season opener.
As with Adams, I'm not sure how much the Jets will be wanting a projected starter to play on special teams but Maye has had good production in college. He had 12 tackles on special teams in his career and did play kick-off coverage last season, albeit that he only had one tackle.
His role in kick-off coverage was typically not to run down as fast as he could to make a play, instead ranging deeper in case the return man got through the first wave. In that respect it was pretty similar to a deep safety role and that is how he made most of his tackles.
Here's one play where he did get down there quicker and was the second man in on the tackle:
Maye's injury at the end of last year was reportedly a broken arm but has also been reported as requiring him to have shoulder surgery. He was unable to participate in a combine workout but was healthy in time for his pro day at the end of March, although he apparently skipped the bench press.
Otherwise he hadn't missed any time in his first three years, although he did have another early-season shoulder issue a few years ago.
As noted, LSU and Florida have similar, pro-style, defensive systems and lots of interchangeability so Maye is capable of playing any role and will complement Adams well.
Back in 2015, Maye was featured in plenty of three-safety personnel packages alongside fellow NFL player Keanu Neal. That's something Todd Bowles has talked about adding more of to the defense too.
It was highly unexpected for the Jets to spend their first two picks on safeties, but the two players they selected speak volumes about what they are looking to add to their team this year.
Both players show good discipline and instincts and should hopefully help the team cut down dramatically on the number of big plays the team gives up.
I expect we'll soon hear that the Jets don't see Pryor as a fit for their defense. You could perhaps say that he doesn't bring the things to the table that Todd Bowles wants from his safeties. That's perhaps just a polite way of saying he isn't good enough, though.
As for Maye, his film had a lot to live up to when being compared to that of Adams, but he's an impressive player. Bringing them into camp together will hopefully push both players to work on any weaknesses and maximise their success.
At the NFL level I could see Maye being the more dynamic of the two and perhaps making more flashy plays, while not quite playing with the same level of consistency as Adams. A lot will depend on how they're used though.
It's going to be interesting to see how they develop at the pro level, but right now I'd say I was more confident in either of them being good NFL players than I was with Pryor.