Today we examine 2022 NFL Draft Prospect and North Carolina QB Sam Howell.
The Grade Scale
The grading scale below is on a level of 1-10, 10 being the elite level and 1 being the lowest developmental level. Click the link above to learn more.
(QB) Overall Accuracy (Short/Intermediate/Deep) Grade: 8
On film, Howell shows he can fit the ball into windows. His ability to hit throws down the seam over LB's and in front of the safeties is notable.
(QB) Throws Outside The Numbers Grade: 7
On film, Howell shows an adequate ability to hit throws outside of the numbers. Because UNC relies on RPO-based routes inside the numbers, I would like to see more throws by Howell outside the numbers in 2021.
(QB) Progressions and Reads Grade: 7
Howell demonstrates the ability to go from one to three, but the Tarheel offense is play-action and RPO heavy. There is a slight concern that Howell needs to develop more in going through progressions, but the concern level is low.
(QB) Deep Accuracy (Ball Placement) Grade: 8
Sam Howell possesses a quick release and good deep ball placement (>20+ air yards), which showed in 2020 where he completed 53% of throws 20 yards or more down the field while throwing 11 TD's to 2 INT's on deep throws.
(QB) Under Pressure Grade: 7
Howell was outstanding under pressure completing 53% of his throws while compiling an 11/3 TD/INT ratio when facing pressure in 2020. Howell has been a starter since his freshman season in Chapel Hill.
(QB) Play Action Passing/RPO Grade: 8
The Tarheels run a very QB-friendly RPO-focused offense (most RPO's in the NCAA in 2020). Howell excelled in play-action and RPO averaging 12.0 yards per attempt in 2020.
(QB) Arm Talent (strength, angles, creativity) Grade: 7
Sam Howell has NFL-level arm strength. He is not known as a QB who relies on his throwing power to fit a ball into a tight window, but he is someone who will take a chance from time to time. He can benefit more by relying on his consistent deep ball placement than using his average to good arm strength to fit the football into a tight window. His arm strength is more than adequate for the NFL level.
Overall Athleticism At The Position (Pocket Movement Mobility Speed Footwork Power Balance) Grade: 6
Howell is an adequate athlete who can move well enough to extend plays which is a crucial trait of current young top NFL QB's. Having the ability to create when a play breaks down is vital in today's football. He could improve by not taking off too soon and allowing the play to develop. Overall, he shows good pocket awareness. Howell has good footwork tendencies but could improve, as do all QBs at the collegiate level.
Awareness and Vision (Position Based) Grade: 7
Howell has good awareness but can sometimes force a throw into a tight area. These issues are few and far between but must be acknowledged. He possesses good field vision; he does a great job identifying the open areas locating his receivers. On film, you can see his ability to drive the pocket when he feels pressure coming, which is a high-level trait.
Player Size (Position Based) Grade: 7
Howell is not a huge QB at 6-1, 220lbs. He draws comparisons to Baker Mayfield, and you can see some similarities in play style. His size is not a factor and is more than adequate at the NFL level.
Scheme Flexibility (is the player scheme dependent or easily adaptable)? Grade: 7
As we have already discussed, the Tarheels use a lot of RPO. When I scouted Baker Mayfield coming out of Oklahoma, I remember his game vs. Ohio State and the amount of RPO they ran in that game on the road vs. the Buckeyes and during his final season in Norman. That did not stop me from grading Baker Mayfield as the most NFL-ready QB entering the 2018 NFL draft. Howell can position himself similarly entering the 2021 CFB season and ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. On tape and early in the process, Howell looks the part of an NFL-ready QB.
2021 Games to Watch
Away vs. Va Tech Sept 3rd
Home vs. Miami Oct 16th
Away vs. Notre Dame Oct 30th
Conclusion/Overall Grade: 7.18 (Instant Impact Player)
Howell is considered a low-level Instant Impact player with year one starter potential. As discussed above, he shows NFL-ready traits similar to the evaluation we performed on Baker Mayfield in 2017. When evaluating any player and especially the QB position, one of the key factors to consider is their experience level and year-over-year progression. Howell has been the starter in Chapel Hill since he arrived two seasons ago. As a freshman in 2019, Howell was very good in his 13 games as the starter completing 61% of his passes for 3600+ yds. He posted an elite-level TD/INT ratio of 38/7 and the nation's 10th highest passer rate (160.25). He followed up in 2020 by posting 3500+ pass yds, a 30/7 TD/INT ratio, and the nation's 8th best passer rate (179.09. He has two years of experience as a starter under his belt heading into the 2021 season.