Kliff Kingsbury’s Influence Will Let Commanders Draft ‘Run & Gun’ QB

Kliff Kingsbury

Getty Kliff Kingsbury's influence could decide which QB the Washington Commanders select in the 2024 NFL draft.

The Washington Commanders only need to follow Kliff Kingsbury’s influence and select Drake Maye in the 2024 NFL draft. Maye is the ideal passer to pick second overall, thanks to his familiarity with offensive coordinator Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” scheme.

That’s according to Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus. He explained how North Carolina standout Maye has an indirect connection to Kingsbury from earlier in his collegiate career: “In 2021 and 2022, Maye’s first two college seasons, his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach was current Wisconsin Badgers offensive coordinator Phil Longo, a disciple of the Air Raid offense.”

Kingsbury is a staunch proponent of the so-called ‘Air Raid‘ offense, although Spielberger doesn’t believe the Commanders will adopt a complete version of the system. Instead, Spielberger thinks some principles of the playbook will suit Maye: “New Commanders offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury won’t bring a full-scale Air Raid scheme to Washington, as he didn’t with the Arizona Cardinals while head coach, but he will incorporate a lot of five=wide alignments and let Drake Maye run and gun with a talented wide receiver duo to continue building around.”

This is one of the more interesting pre-draft takes on which quarterback should appeal most to the Commanders at the top of the first round. Kingsbury’s presence is sure to be key, but Spielberger has offered a compelling argument about why the OC might favor Maye instead of seemingly more logical candidates.

Drake Maye Still in Play for Commanders

Maye’s case to be the second player taken appeared to be on the wane recently. Buzz has been growing LSU’s Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels is the leading candidate to replace Sam Howell and work with Kingsbury.

Daniels’ mobility and arm strength might make his selection a best-case scenario for Kingsbury, but Maye also has the tools to operate an expansive offense at the pro level. He showed off those traits during two prolific campaigns for the Tar Heels.

Maye threw 38 touchdowns passes in 2022 and 24 last season. Those scores were the fruits of labors that saw Maye top college football in “big-time throws” and emerge as “without question, the most productive, over-the-middle-of-the-field, intermediate passer,” per Spielberger’s colleague Trevor Sikkema, who told NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry Maye’s game is “too good to pass up in the top three.”

The Commanders aren’t likely to pass up a potential franchise QB with the second pick, despite any noises to the contrary. Yet, Kingsbury’s input could be a key factor in deciding exactly which signal-caller the Commanders will begin building around in 2024.

Kliff Kingsbury a Key Factor in Commanders’ QB Decision

Kingsbury built his reputation on working with high-profile quarterbacks, including Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray. His most recent role as QB whisperer involved Kingsbury acting as position coach for USC’s Caleb Williams, the likely top pick in this year’ draft.

Williams’ status means he’s as close to a lock for the Chicago Bears as a he can be at this stage of the process. The only way that could change is if a team thinks Williams is worth trading up to acquire.

Kingsbury’s experience would inform the Commanders about the merits of a Williams trade. It’s more likely new general manager Adam Peters stays put and trusts still getting a starting QB with the No. 2 pick.

Having Maye and Daniels to choose from will make things interesting, but Peters is predictably tight-lipped about who he’ll pick. He’s even talked up veteran backup Marcus Mariota giving the Commanders the option to be patient about their future at QB, per ESPN’s John Keim.

That reads like typical, pre-draft GM speak. The Commanders are zeroed in on the top quarterbacks in this class, with the only mystery being who they prefer.

Maye has at least as strong as case as Daniels to hear his name called second overall.

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