Sam Howell – Quarterback – 21 – Junior – North Carolina
Cut : 1m85
Weight : 100Kg
Estimated draft position: 1st or 2nd round
Stats 2021: 3,056 yards, 24 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 62.5% completions, 826 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns
NFL Comparison: Russell Wilson
– Throw in motion
Phenomenon since his arrival at the Tar Heels, Sam Howell is set back in the hierarchy of quarterbacks at the start of this draft. A lackluster season and stagnant progression slowed down the man who claimed a top 10 for this cuvée a year ago. Deprived of most of the targets that made him strong in his early years, Howell nevertheless made an honorable statistical record in 2021. His huge arm makes him an outstanding deep thrower. Accurate over long distance, it easily finds its receiver and will delight replays with its ability to playmaker.
If he was not strictly speaking a double threat quarterback in these first two seasons, he proved in 2021 that he knew how to use his legs to get yards and touchdowns. With more than 820 yards and 11 touchdowns, he was extremely effective, especially in the red zone where his size allows him to challenge his opponents to get the score. This mobility also gives him the ability to get out of the pocket to find passing solutions in the race with some success.
Holder since his first week on the North Carolina campus, he has established himself as a true leader and has repeatedly proven his qualities as a competitor. Commanding qualities praised by his coach Mack Brown.
– Little progress
– Pocket management
If he entered university with a bang, Sam Howell seemed to mark time. Unlike some of its competitors who have shown constant progress over the seasons, it has rather given the opposite feeling. In his defense, he had to start almost from scratch after the departure of his 4 preferential targets during the 2020 draft. Little valued by North Carolina’s offensive system which is limited to static alignments and simple concepts, he also tends to focus his attention on his first reading, too often forgetting an open target. A problem that could grow in the face of complex NFL defenses.
At the higher level, Howell will have to work on his attitude in the pocket. Despite good mobility, he struggles to feel the danger coming and concedes too many sacks (48 in 12 matches in 2021!). A lack of responsiveness to danger that can quickly put an attack in difficulty. Finally, culminating at “only” 1.85m, he remains small enough for the standards sought for at the quarterback position. Based on the principle that it will scan the terrain less well because of a less clear view, scouts tend to devalue this lack of centimeter.
14.4 yards per completed pass
Proof of this is that Sam Howell is a gunner, his number of yards per pass completed in career. His ability to find these targets deep amplifies the phenomenon, but out of college, we can conclude that every time the Tar Heels quarterback finds the hands of his receivers, there is a first down. Not bad for sustaining an attack.
Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts
The latest trends suggest that Sam Howell would be selected during the 2nd round. But as a quarterback with certain qualities, the 21-year-old pitcher could catch the eye of a staff and hear his phone ringing on Thursday evening. With a high ceiling despite his flaws, his arm and his ability to distil deep warheads could give ideas to coaches adept at vertical attack.
If on the face of it he’s not a candidate for selection by the Panthers as the 6th pick, he could become an attractive option if Carolina’s front office decides to back down to grab picks. The casting around could allow him to be in a good mood. But given his still raw profile in some aspects and his young age, it wouldn’t be surprising if Howell were selected by a franchise preparing for the future with the ambition of brooding him for a season or two.