Sam Howell is a quarterback for the North Carolina Tar Heels and a prospect in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft, so let’s dive into his scouting report. Howell started every year in high school, finishing his career going 805-of-1,361 for 13,415 yards and 145 touchdowns while rushing for 3,621 yards and 60 scores. He set the North Carolina state record for total yards with 17,036. As a senior, he earned North Carolina Offensive Player of the Year by USA Today and the Associated Press.
Howell was a consensus four-star prospect, ranked as the No. 2 player in the state of North Carolina, the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country, and the No. 87 overall player nationally by the 247Sports Composite. He earned offers from P5 schools all over the country, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Oregon. He initially committed to Florida State but flipped to UNC to stay home and help resurrect the program after Mack Brown returned.
Howell started all 13 games at quarterback as a freshman in 2019, earning ACC Offensive & Overall Rookie of the Year and Third-Team All-ACC honors. He came back in 2020 and elevated his play, starting all 12 games again and earning 2nd-Team All-ACC. Howell returned in 2021 expected to be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, if not the country. However, he lost several vital playmakers to the NFL, and the offensive line regressed.
He missed one game due to a shoulder injury late in the season but still earned All-ACC Honorable Mention. Howell could have returned for his senior season, but he declared for the draft early and even earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl as an early graduate.
Career Stats: 37 GP/GS, 1117 attempts, 713 completions (63.8%), 10283 yards, 92 TDs, 23 INTs, 111.7 NFL passer rating; 149 rushing attempts, 1696 yards (6.4 avg), 17 TDs, 24 fumbles.
2021 Stats: 12 GP/GS, 347 attempts, 217 completions (62.5%), 3056 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, 101.7 NFL passer rating; 76 rushes, 1106 yards (8.1 avg), 11 TDs, 10 fumbles.
2021 PFF Grades (20% snap minimum): 90.9 Offense (12th), 80.3 Passing (t-37th), 91.0 Rushing (2nd), 50.7 Fumbling (106th).
Sam Howell Scouting Report
- Very good poise and pocket management/awareness, dealing with pressure very well by using very good athletic ability to avoid rushers and move/reset in the pocket.
- Good decision-making on RPOs to get the ball to the right player; solid at finding open receivers on longer-developing throws with good ability to work through progressions and reads.
- Excellent accuracy to all levels of the field with great timing and YAC maximization on short/intermediate throws; deep ball accuracy was fantastic in 2020, with great touch helping hit receivers perfectly in stride.
- Very good touch on intermediate and deep throws, layering throws above defenders and putting appropriate amount of air under deep balls.
- Good arm strength allows him to get the ball to all areas of the field with ease; he can fire the ball into tight windows in short/intermediate areas and push the ball vertically 50+ yards. He has the ability to make all NFL throws.
- Very good play extension ability: great running ability allows him to escape pocket and distance himself from defenders quickly; has play strength necessary to break tackles in the pocket and stay alive; arm strength and accuracy are not significantly affected while on the move, and he does a nice job of keeping eyes downfield.
- Dangerous running threat in his own right, with very good athletic ability, play strength, and competitive toughness, allowing him to run through and around multiple defenders in the open field.
- Outstanding competitive toughness, frequently breaking out of tackles in the pocket to keep the play alive while keeping eyes downfield; willing to sacrifice body as an open-field runner.
- Not asked to do much in terms of pre-snap adjustments/diagnosis beyond RPOs.
- Overhand delivery is a touch delayed, could be improved.
- Could stand to speed up his progressions and decision-making on more complex intermediate concepts.
- Would like to see him be more aggressive with making intermediate throws.
- Deep accuracy suffered some inconsistencies in 2021
- Occasionally panics and scrambles backward, trying to do too much.
- Lacks the arm strength to consistently make deep, cross-field, off-platform throws.
- Ball security is concerning
Sam Howell possesses all the necessary traits to be a starting quarterback immediately in the NFL. He has great accuracy, very good poise in the pocket, and the ability to extend plays with his feet. Howell needs to clean up some of the mental aspects of his game, such as decision-making in the pocket and quickly working through his progressions.
While he does not have elite arm strength, he has the ability to make every NFL throw with excellent placement and touch. He is also exceptionally tough in the pocket and as an open-field runner, consistently sloughing off defenders to stay alive and get extra yards.
In the NFL, Howell would fit best in a Kansas City-style scheme with frequent RPOs and deeper passing concepts that might require him to get outside the pocket. He is very accurate on short quick throws and consistently makes good decisions. Aside from some ball security issues, he rarely makes mistakes and puts the ball in danger.
For those reasons, the scouting report shows Sam Howell should be ready to play immediately. He might have some growing pains early in his career, but by the end of his rookie year, he should be an above-average starter that will develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
Grade: 8 / 10
Comparison: Baker Mayfield (2018 R1 #1, Cleveland Browns)