Sam Howell is a North Carolina institution. At Sun Valley High School, he threw for 13,415 yards and 145 touchdowns, plus ran for 3,621 yards and 60 touchdowns. He elected to remain in-state when he committed to the University of North Carolina, despite earlier having committed to Florida State University.
Howell became the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Tarheels. Over his three seasons there, he would set numerous Tar Heel career records, including most passing yards (10,283), touchdown passes (92), and total touchdowns (109). Howell also threw for the most touchdowns in a single season (38) while only a freshman. He was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2019.
Howell ended with 37 games played and never failed to throw at least one touchdown in each.
Weight: 218 pounds
40 time: 4.9 seconds (estimated – did not run at the NFL Combine)
Howell’s passing stats dropped in 2021, and that will be factored in where he is drafted. The Tarheels lost Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, and wideouts Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown to the NFL last year. The Tarheels fell to only 6-7 with a nearly all-new cast of skill players on offense.
Howell was on track to be a lock as a first-round draft pick after his freshman season, but after the COVID years and losing other offensive stars slowed Howell down, his draft stock has taken a drop.
Table: Sam Howell NCAA stats (2019-21)
- Gunslinger mentality
- Accurate passer in all three levels
- Great leadership
- Natural passer with great instincts
- Mobile passer that doesn’t lose accuracy
- Hard to sack
- Arm that can make any NFL throw
- Succeeded without elite receivers
- Elite footwork keeps him upright
- Deadly on both short timing routes and deep throws
- Smaller than most NFL quarterbacks
- Highly mobile but not a dynamic runner
- Played Hero Ball in 2021 with a lesser cast around him
- Needs improvement on reading defenses
NFL teams have to decide which seasons were more indicative of what to expect from Howell – his first two years when he excelled with a talented cast around him, or 2021 when his stats all fell off when the Tarheels lost the best players from his surrounding cast? It’s equally telling that his rushing attempts doubled last season with lesser passing targets and a drop in the quality of the backfield.
If Howell is selected in the first round, he’ll be considered a starting option as a rookie. He’s expected by many to drop into the second round, and a few believe he could go further since there are only a few teams that are looking for a Day 1 starting quarterback from this draft class.
Howell’s fantasy stock is almost entirely at a dynasty league level. If he lands on a team with above-average talent around him, it would be no shock to see him return to the same impressive form he showed in the first two seasons in North Carolina. He’ll be more of a pocket passer that can run when needed, but he won’t offer the same volume of rushes as a true running quarterback. He is a double-threat, but his NFL success will be tied to his arm.
Unless Howell lands with QB-needy teams like the Falcons, Panthers, Lions, or Seahawks, he’s not likely to produce much fantasy value as a rookie.