While the 2022 quarterback draft class is not extraordinarily strong, North Carolina QB Sam Howell will be an intriguing name as managers decipher his 2022 dynasty fantasy football value and future projection. How does Howell’s landing spot fit his strengths and weaknesses, and what is his 2022 dynasty value at the moment?
Sam Howell’s dynasty fantasy profile
Despite losing Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dazz Newsome, and Dyami Brown (four 1,000-yard players), Sam Howell put together a solid season in 2021. His completion rate dropped to 62.5% (217-of-347), but Howell still posted 3,056 yards with a 30:9 TD-to-INT ratio.
What surprised many was his improvement as a rusher. As we know in dynasty, those extra points via the legs are a massive bonus for weekly scoring and a player’s ceiling. Rushing 183 times across 12 games, Howell totaled 872 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns. He finished third among FBS QBs in rushing behind only Malik Cunningham of Louisville (1,031) and Malik Willis of Liberty (878).
Quarterbacks struggle in Year 1
At 6’0 1/4″, 221 pounds, Howell isn’t going to wow you with his size. There’s also a reason he’s constantly compared to Browns QB Baker Mayfield, who came in at 6’0 5/8″ and 215 pounds. While Mayfield was a more polished QB in college, we could see Howell become a starting-caliber QB in both the NFL and dynasty.
However, it’s not a guarantee. In fact, we tend to struggle at finding QBs who do this in Year 1. Of the 39 QBs selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2010, only five finished as a top-12 QB in their rookie season. With Howell falling all the way to Round 5, he could be a candidate to sit a season.
Personally, I feel this is in his best interest for his long-term development. With that said, Howell is currently my fourth-ranked QB of the 2022 dynasty class. Quarterbacks are never cheaper in fantasy than on draft day, especially in superflex leagues. If you like him and his landing spot, I would pounce on the opportunity in the second or third round. Aside from Kenny Pickett, no QB should go in the first round in superflex leagues.
When you watch Howell’s game tape, it’s evident he was a baseball player. His release and motion are short and compact, with the ball rarely traveling away from his shoulder. While he doesn’t have the arm strength of Malik Willis or Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Howell can still deliver the ball downfield with pace. It takes little effort to fire the ball into the hands of his receivers in intermediate windows from multiple angles.
Howell’s competitive toughness on the field also adds to the comparisons to Mayfield. He’s a fiery leader, willing to stand in the pocket when he knows a defender is coming. Yet, he maintains his poise and gets up, looking for more. While he might not be planting flags at mid-field after a win, Howell has the tenacity that’ll win over a locker room.
Howell needs to work on reading the entire field and going through his progressions. At times, he locks on to his first option and can force a ball into a window that isn’t there. This is a death sentence in the NFL. DBs are quicker and have more range than anything he has come across before.
Howell also needs to demonstrate more consistency in his accuracy. There were too many examples where he underthrew, overthrew, or was wide of his intended target.
Additionally, Howell needs refinement in the pocket. This might not be entirely on him as North Carolina had a subpar offensive line.
However, rather than staying at the depth of his drop, Howell needs to work on feeling the pressure and stepping up in the pocket. With NFL edge rushers becoming more dominant, this is the best way for him to attempt to avoid them and their range while helping out his tackles as they redirect the rush.
Howell is also a bit of an enigma for me — not just him but also Matt Corral and even Carson Strong. Howell comes from an RPO-style offense. Ride the belly, read the outside LB or the nickel defender, pull it, and make the throw.
It’s a quick, efficient offense, but it’s one with baked-in reads rather than full-field progressions. That style of play doesn’t work in the NFL. I’m certainly not saying Howell cannot succeed in the NFL in a “pro-style” system, it’s just we haven’t seen it much.
Howell’s injury history
As mentioned when referencing his toughness, it should come as no surprise that Howell rarely missed games. In fact, he only missed one contest due to injury his entire collegiate career.
Howell missed a contest against FCS Wofford in the Tar Heels’ final home game of the season thanks to a shoulder injury he suffered the week before. He’d come back to play two rivalry games, first against North Carolina State in the final regular-season contest and then against South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
In an era where more and more players are choosing to opt out of bowl games to focus on the draft, Howell showed his competitive drive by going out with his team one final time.
Sam Howell selected by the Washington Commanders
We knew the quarterback class was weak this year and the NFL Draft confirmed this. Despite being the sixth quarterback selected, it took until pick No. 144 for Howell to come off the board to the Washington Commanders.
While he will not be a starting quarterback in 2022, the landing spot is intriguing. Carson Wentz is with his third team, and it could be his final chance to be a starting QB in the NFL. While Wentz did improve his turnover rate last season (27 TDs to 7 INTs), his play has far too many dips for teams or fantasy managers to feel comfortable.
Howell enters camp in a competition with Taylor Heinicke for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Given Wentz’s propensity for injuries, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them under center at some point this season. If Wentz struggles, Howell could be waiting in the wings for a potential role in 2023.