Have you ever met a really pretty girl who is also incredibly smart and genuinely nice. She seems almost perfect and she even texts you first. Like she should be the perfect girl. But there’s just something about her that refuses to let you fall in love with her.
Well for me, if that girl was an NFL Draft prospect, it would be North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell. This article is also from a pure NFL Draft scouting perspective. As far as collegiate QBs go, you can’t find many more talented than Howell. Then again the NFL is a far superior monster than ACC football.
There are so many reasons to love Howell, I mean so many. The first thing that jumps off the screen when watching his tape is his natural arm talent.
Within two minutes of watching my first game of Howell film (2019 game against Clemson), I marked that he had a magnificent deep ball. And for the other four games of film I watched, it was marked down as well. Howell doesn’t have Josh Allen arm strength, but he has more than competent arm strength and already possesses NFL level placement on his deep throws.
Howell makes a number of NFL throws each and every week, it’s one of the reasons a quarterback who’s barely entered his 20’s is considered one of the best QBs the country has to offer and the consensus second best quarterback in the ACC, trailing presumptive first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence.
The 6-foot-1 QB is well beyond his years in a number of areas. His aforementioned deep ball, but also his pocket movement. Howell’s movements look somewhat erratic and can probably be refined with more coaching, but its overall effectiveness can not be questioned.
Howell is obviously crafty within the pocket and against teams like Florida State and Clemson who have some great defensive lineman and cause havoc on opposing quarterbacks, Howell’s pocket presence and creativity has aided him, giving his receivers extra time to get open.
The film on the former four-star recruit constantly showcases his talent, as does his statline. Through 18 collegiate games Howell has thrown 48 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions and has seen a jump in efficiency in his sophomore season.
In his sophomore season Howell has seen his completion percentage rise from 61.4% to 64.2%, his passing yards per attempt jump to 9.5, in comparison to 8.6 as a freshman and his passer efficiency rating go from 160.2 to 160.7.
This is impressive and does show improvement, but if you know me, you’ve heard me say that statistics are the most misleading things in sports.
Yes, they can be a testament of talent, but statistics often fail to take into account context and a lot of the small nuances that are crucial in projecting a prospects success at the next level.
As for Howell, statistics are both a testament of his immense talent and a failure to take context into account.
The context around Howell is a cause for concern. As I said previously, the ACC isn’t exactly a star studded conference, it may be the weakest Power 5 conference and its defenses can be extremely easy to pick apart if you have talent on the outside, which North Carolina has in spades.
The receiver trio of Dynami Brown, Dazz Newsome and Beau Corrales is veteran laden (none are underclassmen) and dynamic, and is the best receiver trio in the conference. Not to mention the running back trio of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams is averaging more than seven yards per carry, has already produced more than 1,000 rushing yards and 1,400 all-purpose yards, and 15 total touchdowns this season..
More concerning is the fact that Howell already has four interceptions this season, with two of them coming against Syracuse and another being a pick-six on a screen pass against Florida State two weeks ago.
Howell is risky with the ball over the middle which may cause turnover problems at the next level and his accuracy is erratic when throwing the ball on the run.
With all this said, Howell is still only a sophomore and there is an immense amount of hype surrounding him for a reason. He’s insanely talented and still has another year to refine himself as a quarterback before possibly declaring for the NFL Draft, which he might do. He does have a maturity and pocket I.Q. well beyond his years, but there are plenty of areas where Howell needs to refine himself if he wants to be seen as a can’t miss prospect when the 2022 Draft rolls around.