Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2022 NFL Draft Prospect Sam Howell, QB from North Carolina. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league.
Going into the 2021 college football season, Spencer Rattler and Howell headlined a relatively unimpressive but deep 2022 quarterback rookie class. Of course, Rattler had his own struggles and completely fell off the map, but Howell also had a tough 2021 season. Therefore, he’s no longer a clear top quarterback in this class, and he’ll battle for positioning in this year’s NFL Draft. Let’s get into his full story.
Howell’s college statistics require a significant amount of context, but here are the raw numbers.
Without any background information, it looks like he had a solid freshman year, an otherworldly sophomore season, and regression in his junior year. However, that narrative leaves out many important details.
In 2019, Howell won the starting quarterback job as a true freshman, beating out Jace Ruder and Cade Fortin in a summer quarterback competition. He was a highly-touted prospect out of high school, but it’s still rare for a true freshman to win a starting job in the ACC. Even though North Carolina only went 7-6 in 2019, he had a fantastic season with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Of course, part of Howell’s success came from his ridiculous supporting cast. North Carolina had Javonte Williams and Michael Carter at running back and future NFL draft picks Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown at wide receiver. While those players were decent in 2018 before Howell, they all reached new heights with him.
Then in 2020, everything came together. Howell soared to ridiculous efficiency rates, boasting a 68.1% completion rate with 10.3 yards/attempt. Even though he threw eight fewer touchdowns, he became a far more accurate passer. After 2020, it seemed like Howell was a locked-in top-ten pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and a solid NFL prospect.
Unfortunately, things changed in 2021. Williams, Carter, Newsome, and Brown declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, leaving Howell without any of his top weapons. Luckily, Josh Downs stepped into their void at wide receiver, with 101 catches, 1,335 yards, and eight touchdowns. Interestingly, though, Howell helped fill in as a rusher in 2021, unlike 2019 and 2020.
As you can see, Howell suddenly recorded 11 rushing touchdowns and 828 rushing yards in 2021, making up for his decline in passing numbers. If he continues that level of rushing in the NFL, he will have more fantasy value, even if his passing numbers don’t recover to their 2020 levels. Overall, though, Howell’s statistics in a Power 5 conference certainly qualify him to be a first-round NFL Draft pick and a solid potential NFL starter.
I always like to put a disclaimer at the start of any section on film analysis I write. I’m certainly no film expert, especially with college tape. However, I can still watch players and have takeaways, and I want to share my opinion on what I saw.
To give Howell a fair assessment, I wanted to look at three different games, one from 2019, one from 2020, and one from 2021. Let’s start with his 2019 contest against Wake Forest.
It’s nice to see one of his early games, as this was his third college game. North Carolina lost 24-18, and Howell performed relatively poorly, completing 17 of 28 passes for just 182 yards and two touchdowns. He easily could’ve had an interception or two and looked sloppy on multiple passes.
But at 4:40, he made an excellent throw, hitting Brown in stride on a massive play, even though there was decent coverage. He didn’t have too many other game-breaking plays, although I liked that he scrambled and got yards a few times. Either way, I wasn’t overly impressed by this game, but he looked good for a raw college freshman.
Now, here’s his 2020 performance against Virginia Tech.
This game represented a stellar performance from Howell. He completed 18 of 23 throws for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-45 victory. At 1:35, he threw a bomb touchdown to Brown, which couldn’t have been more perfect. He will have an NFL future if he can make throws like that.
He played a clean game in this contest, making few mistakes while adding value with his legs and arm. Almost every throw looked solid, and he rarely got lucky, with most of the completions being truly accurate throws. I can see why devy analysts loved Howell so much after 2020.
Finally, let’s look at the Florida State game from 2021.
North Carolina lost this game 35-25, and Howell had a pretty bad game. He completed only 17 of 32 passes for 203 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. However, he added 11 carries for 108 yards, showing off his newfound ground game in 2021. He suddenly looked like a competent runner, even fighting against tackles
At around 1:55, you can see a throw that Howell missed. He had a deep play to his receiver, but the throw was just a tiny bit late. That play should’ve been an easy touchdown, and he needs to convert throws like that in the NFL. Luckily, at 2:25, he made up for that mistake, throwing a deep touchdown on a similar overtop route.
As a whole, Howell’s film looks solid to me, although I’m far from a quarterback guru. If he puts his accuracy from 2020 together with his rushing from 2021, he’ll be a solid quarterback for the NFL and fantasy football. However, I can see why some doubts surround him, especially with his sloppy or non-sharp throws that come up from time to time. His film is far from perfect.
Howell didn’t participate in any testing at the NFL Combine due to a calf injury, but he did measure in and do throwing drills.
He is a bit short compared to other top quarterbacks, but Drew Brees had a highly successful career as a passer at six feet flat. So I’m not overly concerned about his height, and the rest of his measurements are unremarkable, including his hand size and weight.
Luckily, Howell got a chance to showcase his throwing at the NFL Combine.
He's @BuckyBrooks' No. 4 QB in this class.
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2022
It’s tough to tell much from a short video, but he looked good on the throws in that clip. But he doesn’t have an excellent grade from the NFL as a prospect, well behind Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, and even Desmond Ridder. If the NFL relies on those prospect grades to make their decisions, Howell will not go in the first round in April.
Howell’s fantasy and dynasty value will depend entirely on his NFL Draft capital. If he doesn’t go in the first round, I won’t have much interest in him. However, if he does, he has the potential to be a long-term NFL starter.
Right now, he’s the 26th overall player in March DLF’s 1 QB rookie ADP and 11th overall in superflex rookie ADP. If he lands in the first round, those prices seem pretty reasonable and potentially even a bit low. I always love investing in quarterbacks in superflex rookie drafts, as it’s the cheapest time to acquire a young quarterback. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to make a final statement on Howell’s value until seeing his draft capital and landing spot.
I like Howell, and I hope that the NFL comes around on his talent during the NFL Draft. He has every shot to be a high-end starter, but it just seems like the vibe around his draft stock cratered in the past few months. To be honest, I have a bad feeling that he’s going to go in the second round, and I’ll be forced to be out on Howell.
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