Maye, Barton highlight North Carolina’s 2024 NFL draft picks

2024 Tampa Bay Buccaneers first round draft pick Graham Barton, center, poses for a photo with head coach Todd Bowles, left, and general manager Jason Licht, right, at his introductory press conference. Barton played his college football at Duke. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

The state of North Carolina was well represented in the 2024 NFL draft with selections both in the top and bottom of the first round.

The first player taken from North Carolina was UNC quarterback Drake Maye who was selected by the New England Patriots with the third-overall pick.

Maye, who became UNC’s fifth-highest drafted player and just the second Tar Heel quarterback selected in the first round (Mitchell Trubisky; 2nd overall – 2017), had been viewed as a consensus top-5 pick all season with plenty of debate being made for him to go anywhere within that range.

“This is such a special moment for me,” Maye said in his introductory press conference in Gillette Stadium. “Getting that call last night on the old phone, the old buzzer, was pretty sweet. My mom ended up carrying down the old ring down phone out of the green room as a souvenir. Just a special moment for me. Glad I’m coming to an organization that knows how to win and has done it before. I’m ready to get that back on track and just ready to get things going.”

The 6-foot-4, Huntersville native was a two-year starter at UNC where he threw for 8,018 yards and 63 touchdowns.

In his freshman season, Maye set the single-season school record for passing yards (4,321) and tied the single-season record for passing touchdowns (38) and led the Tar Heels to the ACC Championship Game and Holiday Bowl and was also named the ACC Player of the Year.

While Maye’s sophomore season saw him take a bit of a step back from his outstanding rookie showing, he still impressed and made enough of an impression on NFL scouts to go third overall.

“He’s a player that elevates those around him and that’s really all you can ask for at the quarterback position,” said New England director of scouting Eliot Wolf on draft night. “Obviously he’s got a lot of talent, he’s athletic, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s young and we feel like there’s a lot of upside to his game.”

Maye will have the chance to compete for the starter position in a quarterback room consisting of former NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, Bailey Zappe, and fellow 2024 draftee Joe Milton III from Tennessee.

New England has been searching for a new face of the franchise ever since the departure of Tom Brady and they’re hoping Maye can be just that.

The second local product taken in the first round of the draft was Duke center Graham Barton who went 26th overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Barton became the ninth Blue Devil to be taken in the first round and just the third this millennium.

“I’m sitting in the living room, got some family and friends around, got some friends outside and the later you get in the draft, the quieter and more tense the room gets so I just decided to go step outside,” Barton said in his introductory press conference, recounting the moment he was drafted. “Some of my buddies were just out there watching the TV outside, messing around. So I just stood out there, got some fresh air and wanted to relax and laugh at them for a second and then, all of a sudden, I look down at my phone and it says ‘Tampa, Florida’ and so I ran back inside, sat down and took the call and the wave of emotions came front and center. Years and years and years of work and dedication kind of culminates in that moment. It was pretty surreal and it’s still setting in.”

The 6-foot-5, 314-pound interior offensive lineman earned All-American honors as well as being named to the All-ACC first team as the anchor for a Duke offense that put up over 4,500 yards of total offense and allowed just 1.31 sacks per game.

“He’s the epitome of what we look for in this culture that we’re building here to not only lead our draft class, but to lead our team,” said Buccaneer’s GM Jason Licht. “We’re all depending on that O-line room, so the addition of him to it is going to help us out tremendously.”

The Buccaneers have high hopes for Barton and see him as a big piece in helping to protect quarterback Baker Mayfield who Tampa Bay just signed to a three-year, $100 million contract.