Sam Howell NFL Draft Scouting Report | North Carolina QB

QB Sam Howell's scouting report includes a record-setting start at North Carolina -- can he become a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Entering the season in the mix for the QB1 moniker of the 2022 NFL Draft, Sam Howell has been a highly rated quarterback prospect since his impressive 2019 freshman campaign. On his way to Las Vegas, the North Carolina QB has broken program records while setting college football alight. However, a difficult final campaign on Chapel Hill somewhat derailed his bid to lead this murky quarterback class. Nonetheless, Howell has a scouting report worthy of serious consideration in the early part of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Sam Howell NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Quarterback
  • School: North Carolina
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’0 1/4″
  • Weight: 221
  • Wingspan: 75 5/8″
  • Arm: 31 1/8″
  • Hand: 9 1/8″

Sam Howell Scouting Report

Howell started the season as a leading contender for the QB1 of the 2022 NFL Draft class. While he didn’t suffer the complete and utter collapse of contemporary Spencer Rattler, a difficult 2021 season has clouded his standing, which is truly saying something in this murkiest of quarterback classes.

That said, the North Carolina quarterback still possesses an NFL scouting report packed with pro potential. Howell has used the pre-draft process to help repair some of his draft stock. Removed from some of the mitigating circumstances that hobbled his season, he’s been able to showcase some of the next-level potential that he possesses.

Howell is an intelligent, accurate quarterback who possesses an excellent arm. While he might not possess the same pure strength as Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder in this class, the North Carolina quarterback can still deliver a deep ball downfield. Furthermore, he’s showcased amazing zip on short and intermediate throws. He can fire the ball into his receivers with very little effort.

The North Carolina QB gets the ball out of his hands with impressive quickness. Additionally, Howell demonstrates the ability to throw from multiple arm angles. This allows him to distribute the ball accurately on a consistent basis. He showcases the ability to throw with anticipation, routinely putting his receiver in a position to succeed after the catch.

A tough competitor who has elevated his mobility skills this season

Furthermore, Howell can weaponize the plus elements of his arm talent when tasked with working outside of the pocket. He keeps his eyes downfield and has demonstrated that he can throw with accuracy and distance while on the run.

Although it’s been by necessity rather than design, Howell has developed as a threat in the ground game. Previously, he showcased enough athletic ability to evade pressure in the pocket and extend plays. This year, he’s developed vision as a runner and used his physicality to become a constant threat on the ground.

That development adds significant value to his 2022 NFL Draft stock.

Howell’s physicality also manifests itself in the form of competitive toughness. The North Carolina quarterback is able to hang tough in the pocket, take a hit, and rebound. His stocky frame has earned him comparison to former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield from his high school recruitment process and through to his early NFL Draft comparisons.

Areas for improvement

While his last season was disappointing compared to expectations, Howell’s scouting report shows that he’s still very much a player in this 2022 NFL Draft quarterback class. He currently sits as the QB4 on our Consensus Top 300 Big Board, but there’s little to split this group. While he’s repaired his ailing stock some in the pre-draft process, there are still areas for improvement that could prevent Howell from ascending to the top of the class.

Although he’s an intelligent quarterback capable of making pre-snap adjustments, there are some elements of decision-making that Howell can improve on. He often fails to read the entire field, locking onto one target and failing to progress beyond there. The result is forced throws to receivers that aren’t viable options.

While pocket management is difficult to be objective about given his subpar offensive line play, there are some areas where Howell could help himself. He needs to showcase greater awareness in the pocket. This comprises multiple elements, but mainly, his ability to avoid contact and willingness to step up and deliver from the pocket needs to be more consistent.

Howell also needs to demonstrate consistency in relation to accuracy. There were too many examples in the games studied where he underthrew, overthrew, or was wide of his intended target.

Howell’s Player Profile

Howell’s journey to the NFL Draft began as a hyper-productive high school quarterback in Indian Trail, North Carolina. A four-year starter for Sun Valley High School, Howell began to attract early attention with a fantastic freshman campaign. During the 2015 season, he threw for 3,586 passing yards and 35 touchdowns while adding another 6 scores on the ground.

There were no signs of a sophomore slump in 2016. Howell led Sun Valley to the playoffs and added another 3,217 yards and 38 touchdowns to his résumé. In addition to impressing with his arm, his skill as a dual-threat QB developed, as he doubled his rushing touchdown total from the previous season. The upward trajectory continued in his junior campaign, with 1,594 rushing yards and 24 scores.

Howell took Sun Valley to the North Carolina 3AA Regional Final in 2017 as a junior. He secured his third consecutive season of 3,000+ passing yards and 30+ passing touchdowns. Naturally, national attention followed.

Howell was listed as a four-star quarterback by 247 Sports and ranked as the No. 3 dual-threat QB in the 2019 class and a top-100 player nationally. He received offers from over 30 programs, but in April 2018, Howell committed to Florida State ahead of his senior season.

Dominates in senior season and flips his commitment late in the process

Already highly regarded, Howell dominated in his senior season. He was named the 2018 North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, the North Carolina Offensive Player of the Year, and earned first-team All-State honors.

With another productive season, he took his career total to 13,415 passing yards, the second-most in state history. Furthermore, his 3,621 rushing yards ensured Howell would finish his Sun Valley career with a North Carolina state record for all-purpose yardage.

With his high school career complete, all eyes turned to National Signing Day. The assumption was that Howell would affirm his commitment to the Seminoles and join Florida State in the spring. However, there were significant changes at FSU following a dismal season. For instance, Walt Bell, who had led Howell’s recruitment, was no longer in Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, Mack Brown had returned for his second tenure at North Carolina. Adding Phil Longo to his coaching staff made the Tar Heels an appealing destination for a young QB. Additionally, Longo was part of the Ole Miss team trying to recruit Howell. With the opportunity to play in an exciting offense and stay close to his father, Howell flipped his commitment to UNC, giving Brown the first recruit of his second stint with the Tar Heels.

Howell’s career at North Carolina

The combination of Longo and Howell, alongside some dynamic playmakers, made the North Carolina offense one of the most explosive in the nation. When Howell debuted against South Carolina, the young QB became the first-ever true freshman to start a season opener under center for the Tar Heels. He began his career with 2 touchdowns and 245 passing yards in a win.

Howell developed an early reputation for his accuracy after not throwing an interception in his first three games. Once Howell found his comfort level as a college quarterback, he opened up his game to devastating effect. Against Georgia Tech, he set program records for passing attempts (51), completions (33), and passing yardage (371). Howell followed up with 5 touchdowns against Virginia Tech — a program record for a freshman.

As a freshman, Howell had six games with over 300 passing yards, totaling 3,641 yards. Moreover, his 38 passing touchdowns in 2019 set an FBS record for passes by a true freshman. The accolades rolled in as Howell was named the ACC Offensive and Rookie Player of the Year and earned FWAA Freshman All-American honors. 

Much like at Sun Valley, there was no sophomore slump for Howell in 2020. Despite a reduced schedule due to the global situation, Howell came up just 55 yards short of his 2019 yardage total. He saw increases in both his completion percentage and yards per attempt. Furthermore, Howell improved as a dual-threat with an uptick in both rushing yards and touchdowns.

Howell’s NFL Draft ascension

Howell’s 30 passing touchdowns led the ACC, with his 68 touchdown passes through two seasons being the most in conference history. Six of those came in an awe-inspiring performance against Wake Forest, where Howell strapped the team to his back late in the game. He added a rushing touchdown and 571 total yards, part of a school-record 742 total yards of offense.

Howell finished the season as a second-team All-ACC honoree and Manning Award finalist, as well as on 2022 NFL Draft watch lists as a potential first-round pick. After his sensational sophomore season, however, Howell’s 2021 campaign failed to live up to the high level of expectation. The UNC QB finished the season with career lows in passing yards (3,056), adjusted yards per attempt (9.0), and passing touchdowns (24).

However, statistics don’t tell the full story. The North Carolina offense lost a number of weapons, and the offensive line resembled something akin to Swiss cheese. By necessity, Howell was forced into a more mobile role, powering his way to 828 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Although his once-revered NFL Draft profile took somewhat of a hit this year, a 32-team attendance at the UNC Pro Day demonstrated that Howell should still garner plenty of attention in the 2022 NFL Draft. The UNC QB is currently the QB4 on the Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board as a top-50 prospect in the class.

Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Sam Howell

Positives: Strong-armed passer who is patient in the pocket and remains poised under the rush. Senses pressure and steps up to avoid defenders. Natural looking off the safety, looks away from covered targets, and generally plays smart football. Shows a sense of timing on passes, has a live arm, and immediately gets the ball out of his hand.

Accurate, leads receivers with throws, and lets them run to the ball and make receptions in stride. Possesses incredible presence as well as wherewithal, delivers a catchable ball, and puts touch on throws when necessary. Delivers deep throws with speed and throws strikes down the field.

Negatives: Tends to backpedal into the pocket and needs work on his drops. Not a real elusive quarterback who can be relied on to pick up yardage with his legs like he did in 2021. Lacks height and pocket stature. Coming off a slightly disappointing senior season.

Analysis: After a brilliant sophomore campaign, much was expected from Howell last season. And while his year was not a complete flop, it was below expectations. He did rebound and was the most consistent and accurate passer over three days of Senior Bowl practices.

Howell has limitations, but he’s a terrific leader on the field and possesses all the tools necessary to start on Sundays. He has potential in a vertical offense, though you shouldn’t put Howell in a system with a lot of designed quarterback runs.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

FEATURED
PFN NEWSLETTER

Every day, get free NFL updates sent straight to your inbox!