Who is Sam Howell?
Sam Howell is being projected as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL draft, but there are a lot of holes in his game. While there is major upside with Howell, there is also a great chance of him being a bust. At North Carolina this year, he will need to put on an absolute show to be considered the top guy. I still have him behind Spencer Rattler, Desmond Ridder, Jayden Daniels, and Malik Willis. His play thus far has been formidable enough to get him into the NFL, but if he wants to be a first round prospect he’ll need to be a shining star in 2021. He is facing an uphill battle with the loss of receivers, Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown, and running backs, Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Other skill position players will need to step up at UNC this season to help push Howell into the first round conversation.
In the pocket is where Howell thrives. By no means is Howell a running quarterback, but he is extremely mobile in the pocket. He does a great job at navigating the defense and finding areas where he can get a clean throw off. When he’s kept clean, he’s got a cannon for an arm and there is a lot of untapped potential there. Howell is incredibly accurate throwing downfield and hits his receivers in stride. On second and third level throws, Howell does a great job at putting touch on his passes. In an RPO offense, Howell would flourish. He knows how to manipulate a defense with his eyes and he trusts what he sees. Another aspect of Howell having good eyes is that he never sticks on to a target for too long. He has an ability to decipher when it’s time to go to the next progression in the play. When throwing into the middle of the field, Howell puts a great amount of velocity on his passes. Howell’s success in the NFL really will be dictated by where he ends up.
As I mentioned earlier, Howell had an offense filled with NFL talent in 2020. There were a lot of throws where he threw the ball to where the receiver was, rather than where they were going, which resulted in either the player making a ridiculous catch or just a bad throw. This is the year where he needs to prove that he can do it without some of the best skill position players in the country. I felt like those players made him look better than he actually was. Howell undoubtedly needs to clean up his mechanics. His throwing motion is elongated and needs to be a lot quicker. There are a few tendencies, such as patting the football right before he’s going to throw it, that throws off his timing. He also has terrible footwork, his coaches will need to clean up his drop back. He holds on to the football too long and struggles against heavy blitzes. All of this stuff can be coached, which is why general managers view Howell as a top prospect. With all that being said, I want to see him make his teammates better, not the other way around. The best quarterbacks know how to bring the best out of their receivers, and I need to see Howell do that to be the top guy in 2022.
Howell reminds me a lot of Sam Darnold, his potential is through the roof, but he is just too inconsistent to be a superstar. Playing without four NFL skill position players on the offense this year will really show what type of player Howell is. If he were to leave for the draft in 2021, I would have had him rated as a late second round to early third round prospect, in a similar light to Kyle Trask. I’m getting the sense he will be an early first round pick if he has a similar year in 2021 as he did in 2020. The Broncos, Washington Football Team, and Saints would all be good landing spots for the North Carolina quarterback. I’m hoping that Howell proves me wrong and has an amazing junior season.