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2022 NFL Draft Profile: North Carolina QB Sam Howell

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Player Profile

School: North Carolina Tar Heels

Recruiting Profile: Click Here

Position: QB

Height: 6-1

Weight: 220

Year: JR

Jersey Number: 7

Offensive Scheme: Spread/RPO

Offensive Coordinator: Phil Longo

Games Reviewed: Pittsburgh (2021), Notre Dame (2021), Florida State (2021), Miami (2021)

Position Specific Critical Factors

Arm Talent: (7) Good

The QB position requires good accuracy at all levels of the field. The QB prospect must have control of the football to place the ball in tight windows and with the appropriate leverage on his throws. Ball placement is paramount when the targeted receiver is not open in the NFL. The ability to throw a receiver open (anticipatory throwing) can separate a good prospect from an elite prospect. The ability throws that are catchable and with good placement is paramount. A prospect's overall arm strength combined with the ability to change speeds based on throwing distance and situation is critical. The prospect's arm angles and ability to make difficult throws while off-platform or on the move are vital indicators of a QB's overall arm talent.

Decision Making/Awareness: (6) Good

The ability to make smart decisions on the field, with good judgment, and poise in the pocket, is fundamental at the highest level of football. Possessing the ability to process quickly on the fly can separate a prospect from being good or elite. The prospect's intelligence, field vision, understanding of coverage, and reading defenses are all critical. The prospect's ability to not break down as pressure builds is a key factor. Possessing the ability to recognize pre-snap and post-snap coverage is another trait that is paramount.

Big Moments/Clutch: (7) Good

Late game, tight game, playing from behind while under pressure; does the prospect rise to the occasion in the close games against better competition? Can the prospect deliver big-time plays under pressure in critical situations? Does the QB maintain composer and focus in key moments?

Key Strengths

  • Mobility

  • Decision Making

  • Progressions

Key Weaknesses

  • Ball Placement

  • Decisiveness

  • Progressions (a strength and a weakness)

Pass Game Summary

As a passer, Howell is accurate at all levels. He excels at the short to intermediate levels of the field while showing good anticipation and ball placement, allowing his receivers to make plays after the catch (an area he can still improve). Howell does a good job throwing the ball into the open areas of zone coverage, and he displays the ability to move through progressions which will be pivotal to his success at the NFL level. He possesses solid arm talent, he can throw with pop, and use multiple arm slots to make a throw.

Howell is a little skittish at times in the pocket. There are moments he takes off too early instead of moving into the pocket or sliding away from pressure.

Howell's decision-making will need to improve. The North Carolina offense supplied Howell with a lot of easy half-field reads and RPO's. He did improve his ability to go through a full field progression in 2021 and will need to continue to work on this aspect of his game at the NFL level.

Howell will need to work on his mechanics and footwork in the NFL. He must improve in the pocket, stepping into the pocket, standing in the pocket in the face of pressure, or sliding away from pressure. If NFL teams know he can be affected by pressure, he will be consistently dictated to move off his spot and that's where his throw mechanics can be inconsistent.

Run Game Summary

Howell displayed his athleticism more in 2021 as a runner who displayed good balance and throwing ability on the run. In the NFL, he can be effective early in his career on the edge of the defense via designed rollouts with half-field reads and the option to run. He is a conflict-player that forces the defense to defend all 11.

Final Analysis

Before the 2021 college football season, we had Sam Howell ranked as the QB1 heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, but he dropped due to some inconsistent play in 2021. There were factors outside of Howell's control, starting with the loss of two of the top RB's drafted in the 2021 draft (Javonte Willams and Michael Carter) and his two favorite WR's, Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown). His offensive line was not an issue for him in 2021; they graded out in the top 30 of college football in pass protection, and the Tar Heels found a very good replacement out of the backfield (Ty Chandler) while grading out as the top run offense according to PFF.

Sam Howell did show that he could adapt to the changes after losing so much production from the year prior by utilizing his athleticism in multiple ways. His usage in the zone read, RPO, or by way of scrambling to keep plays and drives alive kept the Tar Heels offense on schedule. Howell ranked 2nd to Malik Willis in total first down runs in 2021 and 2nd to Malik Willis in runs of 10 or more yards. He proved that he could be a dynamic player who can put defenders in conflict, and that is an aspect that might be appealing to NFL coaches and GMs.

At the NFL level, Howell will need to develop his game by improving his ability to go through progressions and not take off too early before routes develop. He can take a hit. He is a tough player, but stepping into the pocket, keeping his eyes down the field, or sliding from pressure to keep a throw alive are two ways he can thrive at the NFL level.

Howell reminds me of a more athletic Baker Mayfield. When I first started evaluating Howell, I believed he could enter the NFL and start in an offensive system similar to Baker Mayfield's rookie season under then OC Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens incorporated easy half-field reads and RPO concepts.

Final Grade Analysis

Final Grade: (6.4) (Developmental Potential)

(6.4) Starter Level Traits

Ceiling Grade: (6.9) High Upside Potential

(9.0-7.0) Solid Starter Level

Floor Grade: (5.9) (Role Player Potential)

(5.9) Career Backup Level


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