Sam Howell, QB, Commanders
Heading into his final season on campus, many expected Sam Howell to solidify his first-round status. Unfortunately for Howell, this was not the case. The North Carolina Tar Heels regressed in every metric in 2021.
Now, it must be mentioned how much talent the team lost to the draft last offseason, as Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown, and Dazz Newsome all went to the NFL. Howell did his best to make up for the lack of talent around him, but this oftentimes resulted in plays that made evaluators roll their eyes.
Few will doubt Sam Howell’s talent. He has a strong arm and honestly, he threw the prettiest deep ball on tape of any quarterback I watched this past year. In 2021, he even began mixing in a newfound rushing ability.
On a career-high 183 attempts, Howell totaled 828 yards on the ground and chipped in 11 touchdowns. Simply put, he kept the team in games that they would have lost by multiple touchdowns otherwise. This also shows why scouting goes way deeper than the raw counting numbers.
Sure, seeing Howell show a dual-threat capability is an objectively good thing. However, a lot of these runs were made on broken plays. It is hard to imagine Howell being schemed to run much in the NFL. He’s a good athlete, but running well against ACC defenses is not the same thing as an NFL defense. Furthermore, due to being flushed out of the pocket consistently, Howell wasn’t able to improve at the most important qualities of being a quarterback. He got worse at keeping his eyes downfield and bailing on clean pockets, and didn’t take a single snap under center.
The way the league is trending, that’s less important now, but considering Howell has no real experience with pre-snap responsibilities, it will take major leaps in development for him to become a starter in this league. The Commanders overpaid for Carson Wentz out of desperation, but landing Howell in round five presents great value and makes up for the lopsided trade a bit. My concern is the fact he is buried on the depth chart for the foreseeable future. It gives Howell a chance to hone his craft, but Wentz doesn’t seem like the mentor type and there’s little track record of any fifth-round quarterbacks panning out. I’m rooting for Howell, but I am skeptical.