Tracker: Drafted players and free agent signings from Duke, NC State, UNC and other area schools

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Thursday, May 2, 2024
NFL Draft | Several Triangle-area school players selected
UNC's Tez Walker is among those drafted.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Several talented Triangle-area school players were selected in the NFL Draft that concluded on Saturday. Many others signed undrafted free-agent deals.

Here's a list, by school, of players who were either drafted or signed as free agents:


Drake Maye, QB

Opinions differ on where Maye ranks among the top college signal-callers, but there's no debating that he's one of the few elite QB talents in the draft. At 6-4, 223 pounds, Maye has great size but can make plays with his arm or feet.

In Maye's first season (2022) as a starter at UNC, he threw for 4,321 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. With several key receivers gone to the NFL in his second season, his numbers took a dip as he passed for 24 TDs with nine interceptions.

Still, as ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper describes Maye, "He looks the part of a big-time NFL signal-caller. He can make every throw with ease. He's accurate on the move and can pick up first downs with his legs. Maye varies his pass speeds really well -- he knows when to take a little off to make it easier for his receivers. He has outstanding touch on vertical throws."

UNC quarterback Drake Maye has deep family ties to the Chapel Hill campus, where his father Mark played quarterback and his brothers Luke and Beau both played basketball.

Maye is projected to go as high as No. 2 to the Washington Commanders or No. 3 overall to the spot held by the New England Patriots. It would be a shocker if he fell lower than fifth overall Thursday night.

On Friday, the Maye-hem was already hitting Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

One fan wasted no time heading into Classic Carolina with a special request honoring the Tar Heel and now Patriots quarterback. He asked whether he could have a Pats jersey customized.

The store manager said they might have to start doing that, but in the meantime, their No. 10 Maye jerseys and T-shirts have been selling quickly.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Maye was taken No. 3 overall by the New England Patriots.

UNC linebacker Cedric Gray
Karl B DeBlaker

Cedric Gray, LB

Gray was a highly productive linebacker for the Tar Heels, recording 121 tackles including 64 solo ones in 2023. He also had five sacks and forced two fumbles.

The Charlotte native is a little undersized by preferred NFL standards (6-1 1/2, 234 pounds) but projects as a good depth player who could eventually start. Analysts seem to think Gray will be taken late in the third round or early in the fourth.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Gray was selected by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 106 pick in the fourth round.

"I'm so excited to be a part of the Titans organization," said Gray. "I've been dreaming of this moment for a long time, and now that it's here, I'm just so thankful for all the people who helped me get to where I am."

UNC wide receiver Tez Walker
Reinhold Matay

Tez Walker, WR

The 6-1 2/2, 193-pound Walker played only eight games in his only year in Chapel Hill because of eligibility issues but still made an impact with seven touchdowns on 41 catches. He racked up 699 yards -- an average of 17 yards per catch. That's the kind of big-play ability that gets the attention of pro scouts.

Most analysts see Walker as a Day 2 guy, getting selected as high as the mid-second round or possibly the third round. NFL Network projects Walker to be a good backup with the potential to develop as a starter.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Walker was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 13th pick (113st overall) in the fourth round.

"I'm so thankful to be in this position," Walker said. "At this point, pretty much everyone knows my story and how difficult it's been, but seeing the joy on the faces of my family after the announcement makes everything worth it. I want to thank the Ravens for putting their faith in me. I'm going to work as hard as I can to make them look good."

UNC defensive tackle Myles Murphy chases Appalachian State quarterback Chase Brice on Sept. 3, 2022, in Boone.
Reinhold Matay

Myles Murphy, DT

Murphy has lots of college experience and good size at 6-4 and 309 pounds. The Greensboro native was an honorable mention All-ACC selection and had 24 tackles, including 4.5 for loss in his senior season.

Kiper rates him as the No. 21 defensive tackle in the draft.

Murphy has the size and skills to get a shot to stick with a team this season.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Murphy was not selected, but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals.

UNC's British Brooks runs past a Minnesota linebacker.
Reinhold Matay

British Brooks, RB

Brooks was inconsistent at UNC but flashed some tantalizing glimpses of talent.

In 2023, he had 74 carries for 375 yards and two touchdowns but saved his best effort for SEC foe South Carolina, rushing for 103 yards on 15 carries.

He missed all of 2022 after getting injured in preseason practice. In 2021, he gained 295 yards of just 31 carries, an average of 9.5 yards per attempt. He had a big game against rival NC State, shredding the Wolfpack defense for 124 yards on just 15 carries.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Brooks signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Houston Texans,

UNC defensive lineman Tomari Fox brings the heat against Duke quarterback Grayson Loftis.
Chris Seward

Tomari Fox, DL

Fox started just one game in his final year at UNC but played in all 13. He posted 14 tackles, a sack, two pressures and 1.5 tackles for loss.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Fox signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.

North Carolina linebacker Amari Gainer reacts to a good play against Clemson on Nov. 18, 2023.
Jacob Kupferman

Amari Gainer, LB

Gainer came to UNC after five seasons at Florida State and played in all 13 games. He recorded 27 tackles, six for loss, 2.5 sacks, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a QB pressure.He had three tackles and forced a fumble against West Virginia in the Duke's Mayo Bowl.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Gainer signed an undrafted free-agent deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.

UNC offensive lineman Spencer Rolland blocks against Appalachian State.
Reinhold Matay

Spencer Rolland, OL

Rolland started all 13 games on the offensive line for the Tar Heels and was named Honorable Mention All-ACC.

He played two seasons at UNC after transferring from Harvard.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Rolland, a Burnsville, Minnesota native, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings.

UNC offensive lineman William Barnes
Karl B DeBlaker

William Barnes, OL

Barnes played in 12 games last season, making eight starts. He played five seasons for the Tar Heels.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Barnes received a rookie minicamp invitation from the New York Giants.


Graham Barton of Duke
Chris Seward

Graham Barton, OL

In a class deep in offensive lineman, Barton stands out as one of a handful expected to go in the first round.

Most analysts project Barton as a center in the NFL, and at Duke, the 6-5, 313-pound Barton played a few games at that position though mostly played left tackle. He made 39 starts for the Blue Devils.

Kiper says of Barton: "Extremely coachable and technically sound, and he has excellent natural ability. He plays an aggressive style of football. He is equally adept at both pass protection and moving defenders off the line of scrimmage in the run game. The NFL will love Barton's game-to-game consistency, starting experience and versatility."

Barton is expected to be chosen in the 20s on Thursday and be an instant starter.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Barton was chosen No. 26 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Duke's campus Friday, many, like Duke baseball player Jimmy Evans, were excited for Barton.

"He's a nice guy," said Evans, who knows Barton. "He's a big dude."

Evans was excited to see his friend beef up the offensive line for Tampa Bay and make his mark.

"It's amazing, it's every little kid's dream right to get drafted whatever sport you play in so again, an amazing opportunity for him and I'm sure he'll do really well with the Bucs," Evans said.

Barton also got a shoutout from his former boss, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. While at Duke, Barton interned for Tillis, who congratulated Barton on making the jump to the NFL.

Duke's DeWayne Carter puts a hit on Notre Dame and former Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman.

DeWayne Carter, DT

Opinions have varied wildly on the 6-2, 302 Carter. Some draftheads have mocked Carter as early as the fourth round while others see him as a sixth-round pick.

Kiper has Carter at 93rd in his list of Top 100 players in the draft.

Carter's sack numbers and solo tackles were down in 2023 from previous seasons, but much of that can be attributed to increased double teams on the disruptive Duke defender.

NFL Network grades him as a good rotational player with the upside to eventually start.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Carter was taken in the third round by the Buffalo Bills with the 32nd pick (95th overall).

Duke center Jacob Monk.
Terrance Williams

Jacob Monk, C

Speaking of centers, Monk, at 6-3, 320 pounds, has excellent size for that position.

The Clayton native was a two-time team captain for the Blue Devils who started 44 consecutive games on the offensive line at one stretch. He has played all three line positions but projects as a center in the NFL.

Kiper rates Monk as the 13th-best center in the draft pool.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Monk was taken in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers with the 28th pick (163rd overall).

Duke's Jalon Calhoun plays against Pitt on Nov. 25, 2023.
Ben McKeown

Jalon Calhoun, WR

Calhoun was a versatile player for the Blue Devils, catching 253 passes for 3,026 yards in 61 games while registering 18 touchdowns, one on the ground. He also returned 26 punts for 258 yards (9.92) and two kickoffs for 26 yards (13.00).

He was All-ACC in 2022 and finished with 3,324 career all-purpose yards. He was the fourth Duke player to reach 3,000 career receiving yards.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Calhoun signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Lions.

Duke cornerback Myles Jones.
Ben McKeown

Myles Jones, CB

In five years Jones played in 53 games with 22 starts between Texas A&M University and Duke. He recorded 131 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, 31 pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one quarterback pressure. He had a career-high nine tackles against Wake Forest in 2017.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Jones signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets.

Duke safety Jeremiah Lewis.
Ben McKeown

Jeremiah Lewis, S

In his four seasons at Duke and one year at Northwestern, Lewis recorded 206 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, 21 pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, two fumble recoveries and blocked a kick.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Lewis received a rookie minicamp invitation with the New York Giants.

Duke offensive lineman Jake Hornibrook blocks against Florida State.
Phelan M. Ebenhack

Jake Hornibrook, OL

Hornibrook played four years at Stanford before joining Duke and was an Academic All-ACC honoree in 2023. On the field, Hornibrook started and played in 12 games at right tackle and right guard for the Blue Devils but missed the Birmingham Bowl against Troy because of injury.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Hornibrook received a rookie minicamp invitation with the Indianapolis Colts.

Duke's Ja'Mion Franklin puts pressure on the quarterback against Pitt.
Keith Srakocic

Ja'Mion Franklin, DT

Franklin recorded 70 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries, six pass breakups and two quarterback pressures in 50 career games. Last fall, Franklin was the recipient of the team's Defensive Lineman of the Year Award after starting all 13 games compiling 30 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, and one pass breakup. He also registered two-plus tackles in eight contests, including a season-best seven tackles against Wake Forest.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Franklin signed as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens.

Duke's Al Blades Jr. defends a pass against UNC receiver J.J. Jones on Nov. 11, 2023.
Chris Seward

Al Blades Jr., CB

Blade was a 2023 All-ACC selection and Academic All-ACC honoree. Blades Jr. had four career interceptions and a career-best eight tackles against Louisiana Tech in 2019.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Blades signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets.

Duke punter Porter Wilson.
Phelan M. Ebenhack

Porter Wilson, P

Wilson was a two-time semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award during his four-year Blue Devil tenure. In 49 career games, Wilson punted 214 times for 9,511 yards (44.44) with 79 boots downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Wilson graduated with the highest punting average in Duke history for a career, season (46.65 (54-2,519), 2023) and single-game (57.30 (3-172), vs, Florida State 2023).

WHERE HE'S GOING: Wilson received a rookie minicamp camp invitation from the Green Bay Packers.


NC State linebacker Payton Wilson
Ben McKeown

Payton Wilson, ILB

No one is denying Wilson's talent. The 6-4, 233-pound linebacker dazzled with his speed and athleticism at the NFL combine where he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. He's shown incredible instincts and always seems to be around the ball.

The Hillsborough native won the Chuck Bednarik Award in 2023, given to the college football defensive player of the year, and also won the Dick Butkus Award as the nation's best college linebacker.

Wilson has first-round attributes but most analysts project him to go in the second or even third round mostly because of his injury history and because he's an older draft entry at 24 years old.

NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks says Wilson reminds him of former Carolina Panthers great Luke Kuechly. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year will surely make his presence felt no matter where he is drafted.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Wilson went later than expected but was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 35th pick of the third round (98 overall).

NC State center Dylan McMahon
Karl B DeBlaker

Dylan McMahon, C

The 6-3, 299-pound McMahon was a reliable member of the NC State offensive line. A team captain, he earned elite grades in seven games, more than any other offensive lineman.

As a pro prospect, opinions vary about his draft grade, with analyst opinions varying from a fourth-round selection to the final picks of Day 3. Kiper ranks McMahon as the eighth-best center prospect.

Regardless of where he's drafted, McMahon is seen as a depth player with value on special teams by most analysts.

WHERE HE'S GOING: McMahon was taken in the sixth round by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 14th pick (190th overall).

NC State defensive lineman Savion Jackson.
Karl B DeBlaker

Savion Jackson, Edge

The 6-2, 263-pound Clayton native was a mainstay on the defensive line for the Wolfpack.

NC State has a long lineage of putting defensive linemen in the pros and Jackson hopes to be the next one.

Jackson has battled some injuries along the way and lacks elite quickness and athleticism, according to some analysts. This makes him likely to be a practice squad player as a rookie or depth player on an active roster.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Jackson was not selected, but signed with the Los Angeles Chargers after the draft.

NC State defensive back Robert Kennedy III
Karl B DeBlaker

Robert Kennedy III, DB

Kennedy started every game of the season at nickel for the Wolfpack and made several key plays, including a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown against VMI.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Kennedy signed an undrafted free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.

NC State's Trent Pennix scores a touchdown against Boston College.
Chris Seward

Trent Pennix, FB/TE

Pennix, a Raleigh native who played at Sanderson High School, started his career at State as a running back but later showed his versatility by playing at tight end.

He had a penchant for scoring in unique ways, catching a touchdown pass from wide receiver KC Concepcion against Virginia Tech and running for a 60-yard touchdown on a fake punt against Kansas State in the Pop-Tarts Bowl.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Pennix signed an undrafted free-agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

NC State cornerback Shyheim Battle
Ben McKeown

Shyheim Battle, CB

Battle played five seasons for the Wolfpack and was known as a hard-nosed player on the defense. The Rocky Mount native finished with 46 tackles in 2023 and had two interceptions, six passes defended and a fumble recovery.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Battle got an invitation to rookie minicamp with the New York Jets.

NC State kicker Brayden Narveson
Chuck Burton

Brayden Narveson, K

Narveson joined the Wolfpack as a grad transfer and quickly showed he was a reliable kicker, finishing the 2023 season tied for ninth in the ACC in scoring with 7.1 points per game.

He also kicked the longest field goal in school history at Duke, a 57-yarder, made four field goals against UNC and kicked a 33-yarder as time expired to beat Virginia.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Narveson will be in rookie minicamp with the Tennessee Titans.

NC State long snapper Joe Shimko
NC State University

Joe Shimko, LS

Joe Shimko was simply put, the best long snapper in the country. He won the Patrick Mannelly Award, which is given annually to the nation's top long snapper. Shimko was the epitome of reliability for the Wolfpack: In 607 career snaps, he never had a bad one.

Long snappers rarely get drafted but they are an important piece of any successful football team.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Shimko signed an undrafted free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals.


NC Central quarterback Davius Richard.
Mark J. Terrill

Davius Richard, QB

Richard was a three-time captain and record-setter at North Carolina Central but questions remain about a step up in competition.

Still, Kiper ranked Richard as the 12th best quarterback on his board, ahead of Power 5 QBs such as Joe Milton III of Tennessee and Devin Leary of Kentucky and formerly NC State.

Richard has great dual-threat skills but can he make the throws at the pro level?

WHERE HE'S GOING: Richard was not drafted, however, he could get a look in camp and projects as a practice squad player as a rookie. Richard is still recovering from an injury and hasn't been cleared to return to action, a source told ABC11. He likely won't get a workout until the summer.


The private school in Wilson only restarted its program a few years ago, but the Bulldogs are already starting to make the football world take notice.

Jordan Terrell was an offensive force in the backfield for Barton College.
Barton College

Jordan Terrell, RB

Terrell was a dynamite runner at Barton, gaining 1,732 yards in his final season with 11 touchdowns while averaging 157.5 yards per game,

Terrell, a native of Ramseur, was named to the 2023 Associated Press NCAA Division II Football All-American Second Team. Against Erskine on Nov. 11, 2023, he ran for an eye-popping 403 yards and four touchdowns.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Terrell posted on his social media that he will be in camp with the Tennesee Titans.

Kameron Johnson was a receiving, returning, rushing threat at Barton College.
Barton College

Kameron Johnson, WR/KR

Johnson was another versatile player and part of Barton's 1-2 offensive punch along with Terrell. He Is considered undersized by pro standards (5-10, 170) but smaller players have been successful in the NFL in the past.

At Barton, he caught 51 passes for 879 yards and seven touchdowns and returned 16 kicks for 310 yards. That kind of versatility could earn him an eventual spot on special teams at the next level.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Johnson posted on his social media that he will be in rookie camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


Blake Watson looks to break free against Navy.
John Amis

Blake Watson, RB, Memphis

Watson, who played at Cary's Green Hope High School was one of those players who wasn't drafted but probably should have been.

At Memphis, he ran 192 times for 1,152 yards and 14 touchdowns while totaling 53 receptions for 480 yards and three scores in his final season. His 1,637 scrimmage yards rank sixth all-time in Memphis' single-season history.

At his pro day, he ran a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Watson signed a deal with the Denver Broncos that reportedly included a $25,000 signing bonus and a $225,000 salary guarantee, one of the top undrafted free agent deals of 2024.

Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright outruns a Vanderbilt defensive back on Nov. 25, 2023.
Wade Payne

Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee

Wright was a big-play back with the Volunteers in 2023, gaining 1,013 rushing yards on just 137 carries, a startling 7.4 yards per carry. That was good for second-best in the FBS. Wright was born in Raleigh and played at Southern Durham High School, where he also starred in track and field.

As a junior, he helped lead Southern to a 102 record and conference championship while gaining 901 yards on just 89 attempts (10.1 yards per carry). He didn't get a senior season as the COVID-19 response led to the postponement of fall football. In track, he ran a 6.29 55-meter dash, the fastest mark in the nation at the time.

WHERE HE'S GOING: Wright was drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the 23rd pick (158th overall) in the fifth round.

This list will be updated as more local players sign as free agents

The Associated Press and ABC11's Tom George contributed to this report.