Sam Howell Draft Profile
It felt like I aged 30 years while watching Sam Howell; there is so much good and a lot of bad in his tape. Having Sam Howell at quarterback is like going on a rollercoaster; there are a lot of ups, and a lot of downs, but at the end of the day it was a ton of fun. He made a ton of fun plays that are just absurd to watch, but he would also make devastating decisions that ruined all the fun. Would I want a player like that to be the starting quarterback for my team? I don’t think so. Would I want that quarterback playing in my division? Absolutely not. I anticipate teams having a difficult time grading him as a quarterback and I could see his draft stock falling because of that. Howell would benefit from having an experienced head coach to help improve his decision-making. While his numbers aren’t as impressive as they were in 2020, I felt like Howell did get better in his final year at UNC. I watched five games from 2020 and six games of 2021, and it looked like his talented counterparts would repeatedly bail him out in 2020. Howell showed that he was able to exceed without Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown, and Dazz Newsome beside him this year.
The most obvious thing that stood out when watching Howell play was his toughness. Whether it be him running over defenders or making big time throws while being clobbered by a defender, Howell never showed fear in his eyes. He is one of the toughest quarterback prospects I have ever seen come out of college; he is on par with Josh Allen from that standpoint. The grit that he shows while taking those big hits were something that his teammates loved and rallied around. Whether or not his coached liked it, it’s a form of leadership to endure painful plays and keep going afterwards. You want your quarterback to be “one of the guys” and that is exactly what Howell is. After Howell announced that he was entering the draft on his instagram, his comment section was flooded with UNC teammates praising who he is as a man. Former North Carolina and current Jets Running Back Michael Carter said, “Shed a tear fam. The Greatest in UNC history, you [are an] even better person. Nobody deserves it more than you”. On top of being a great teammate, Howell is a great student; he graduated from the North Carolina in three years and will be playing in the Senior Bowl. When it comes to his on field attributes, Howell has a rocket for an arm and is an unconventional runner. He isn’t very fast or agile, but he is a punishing runner despite being only 6’1. As a passer, Howell is capable of zipping balls into narrow windows and thrives with run-pass options. He has the arm strength to make any throw on the field, even if a defender is in his face. Howell does a phenomenal job at stepping up in the pocket and has very good pocket mobility. Howell will be a fun prospect to watch in the NFL and I can see a front office falling in love with him as both a player and person.
As I have mentioned earlier, Howell has a lot of ups and a lot of downs to his game. His inconsistencies as a passer are very concerning; there are times when it feels like you’re holding your breath while watching him play. Sometimes it looks like he is lazy with his mechanics, other times it looks like he is trying to do too much. His throwing motion is also erratic. While some people may love his toughness; it is also a cause for concern. The number of hits he takes may scare off a general manager and can be detrimental to his longevity. The inconsistencies in his mechanics cause inaccuracy and throw off the timing for certain plays. Howell also gets a little antsy with his eyes and will look to different targets either too early or will throw the ball before the play has developed. If I was a defensive coordinator I would attack him with interior pressure. Howell loves to step up in the pocket, but if he’s unable to step up then he’ll make errant throws into coverage. A general manager can look at Howell in two ways; either a quarterback with a ton of potential that can be coached into stardom, or a project player that is too inconsistent to be a franchise guy.
I have never seen a quarterback and thought he belongs in the AFC North more than Howell. His toughness and raw talent just look like a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers. When it comes to a pro comparison; he reminds me of Carson Wentz. He is tough and capable of making some insane throws, but on other throws, you just have no clue what he was thinking. It’s like watching football with one eye open; some plays you want to see… other’s not so much. Just like Wentz, Howell takes a lot of hits and a lot of crucial sacks. Both quarterbacks thrive in the RPO game and have wicked potential. They can bail the offense out of trouble, but also tend to put the ball into harm’s way. For that reason, I could see him being a good fit with the Colts in the second round (where I have him graded). Matt Ryan isn’t the long-term guy for Frank Reich, and they could target Howell if they believe he can develop under Ryan. I could also see Bruce Arians falling in love with his arm and having him sit behind Tom Brady until he retires. While Howell is a great fit with the Colts and Buccaneers, I believe he is destined to be in the AFC North.
Arm Strength + Deep Ball 9.25/10
Pocket poise 7/8
Improvisational Skills 4.5/5
Decision Making + IQ 6/10
Against the Blitz 5.75/8
Throw on the Run 3.5/5
Final Rating: 78
Pro Comparison: Carson Wentz QB Colts
Team Fits: Colts, Steelers, Buccaneers
Draft Grade: Late Second Round Pick
Draft Projection: Day Two Pick