In May 2021, NBC Sports released a “far too soon” mock draft for 2022, which at that point was still almost a year away. In the mock draft, the Texans picked the No. 1 pick in the draft, and the player slated to be the first overall pick on April 28, 2022 was none other than Commanders owner Sam Howell. Here’s what the NBC Sports article had to say about Sam Howell this time last year:
A freshman All-American in 2019, Howell passed for more than seven thousand yards and threw 68 touchdowns in two seasons at North Carolina. In all likelihood, the Texans will have left former superstar, Deshaun Watson and reset with preseason All-American quarterback, Sam Howell.
NBC Sports wasn’t alone in expecting big things from Howell. Bleacher Report had Spencer Rattler projected to No. 1 overall (he didn’t make the draft; instead, he trades his final year of college ball to South Carolina) and Howell to No. 2 overall. Let’s see what Bleacher Report had to say:
Scouts are very high on Sam Howell of North Carolina for Campaign 22.
“If the draft was tomorrow, he would be the only first-round quarterback on our board,” a director of scouting told The Athletic’s. Danish Brugler.
Howell became one of the best quarterbacks in the nation as a true freshman and maintained that high standard. He is unfazed in the pocket and an excellent passer down. According to Focus on professional footballthe 20-year-old’s 59 big throws on deep passes has led college football since the start of the 2019 season.
Howell’s first season at UNC established him as a star. His follow-up season proved that was no fluke as his completion percentage rose 6.7 points and Howell ranked fourth in the nation in passing yards, according to ESPN.
It looked like Howell lived up to the hype. The Tar Heels made back-to-back bowl appearances after a 2-9 season that preceded Howell’s arrival. He rode drawing boards. Prior to the start of the 2021 season, Howell was considered not only a Heisman Trophy favorite, but also a potential top-five pick in the draft. 2022 NFL Draft
It’s clear that in May 2021, Sam Howell was considered one of the NFL’s top prospects, but he ended up being selected as the first player drafted in the 5th round of last week’s draft.
Well, it has a lot to do with the numbers Howell put up as a junior in 2021. After throwing for around 3,600 yards in each of his first two seasons, Howell’s passing numbers have dropped to just over 3,000 yards last season. His completion rate has gone from 68% in 2020 to 62.5% in 2021. His touchdowns thrown have dropped in consecutive years, from 38 in his freshman season to 30 as a sophomore and just 24 as a junior . To top it off, he’s thrown a career-high 9 interceptions, having thrown 7 in each of his first two seasons, and he’s had 47 sacks in 2021 after averaging 34.5 per season in 19 and 20.
Things likely changed for good in the opening week of the 2021 season, when Howell completed just 17 of 32 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown — to three interceptions — in an upset loss to 17-10 against unranked Virginia Tech. This game set the tone for the production drop season for Howell.
One stat that saw a dramatic increase in 2021, however, was Howell’s running yardage. After logging 186 carries for well under 200 yards in his freshman and sophomore seasons combined (averaging less than 1 yard per rush recorded), Sam Howell racked up the running stats as a junior, amassing 828 yards. rushing at an average of 4.52 yards per carry. with 11 touchdowns, more than making up for the drop in passing yards and touchdowns. But that was not enough to lead his team to a successful season.
The Tarheels team’s lack of success was likely another factor that helped drive down Howell’s draft stock. After posting records of 7-6 and 8-4 in Sam’s first two seasons, the Tarheels fell to 6-7 in 2021. Losing records isn’t what NFL offices want to see. university quarters.
So, it seems pretty clear that the Tarheel’s regression in statistical performance and overall success hurt Sam Howell’s draft stock, but what were the underlying causes of that regression?
Howell had been surrounded by NFL-caliber talent in his first two years. In the backfield were Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, two 1,000-yard rushers. Wide receivers Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown were two of the most dynamic playmakers in the ACC. These four players were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. In fact, the Washington Football Team selected Brown in the 3rd round of last year’s draft after the young receiver racked up 1,000 consecutive seasons. yards, averaging over 20 yards per reception in each of those seasons.
With the loss of so many playmakers at once, Tarheels head coach Mack Brown had to make adjustments. It meant getting Howell out of the pocket – and out of his element. The results have already been detailed above; Howell’s passing count regressed, but he rushed for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns.
With the changes in offensive scheme, Howell’s limits have become clearer to drafting experts. He lacks elite athleticism and struggled to make decisions at times in his final season at Chapel Hill. His exit was sometimes too slow, leading to missed passes. Overall, NFL offices began to believe his cap was lower than some of his contemporaries, such as Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder, both of whom possess superior athleticism.
On Saturday, Washington Commanders selected Sam Howell with the 5th-round first pick — a dramatic drop from high expectations a year ago.
So the question now is, what is Sam Howell’s future? Is he likely to achieve what was expected of him a year ago when he was one of the best passers in college football? Or is it the reality that he’s actually a 5th-round quarterback, destined to struggle to accomplish much in the NFL — a kid who had a meteoric flash through the sports headlines for two college seasons, but who will never see the same success as a professional?
Hogs Haven posed this question to its members in a recent survey.
The majority of survey respondents view Sam Howell as a career replacement in the NFL, although 45% of respondents believe he will start games this year or could become a franchise quarterback.
Clearly there is very little certainty about what Sam Howell’s expectations should be after his mildly schizophrenic 3-year career at Chapel Hill. Even professional media analysts seem a bit ambivalent and ready to use a lot of qualifiers and conditions when discussing the issue of Sam Howell’s career prospects. Consider this from an article posted by Bucky Brooks yesterday:
After shockingly slipping to Round 5, Howell must overcome long chances of becoming a rookie. It’s rare for a Day 3 pick to be considered a potential starter, but Howell’s skills and intangibles give him a chance to make a run for QB1 down the road. The 21-year-old needs to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates in July and August. If Howell displays winning traits in limited action, he will eventually have a chance to compete for the position.
It’s also clear that his new head coach, Ron Rivera, is determined to keep the pressure on his 21-year-old quarterback, and Rivera has plenty of reason to do so.
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Commanders traded for Carson Wentz this offseason, in a move that meant a commitment of draft resources and salary cap space. For better or worse, Ron Rivera is fully committed to Carson Wentz for the 2022 season, and, if things go well, then that marriage of convenience could be extended indefinitely.
Of course, if the Carson Wentz experiment in Washington ends up like the Wentz experiment in Indianapolis, then Sam Howell could end up in the spotlight, but that’s not what the head coach or anyone at Ashurn wants to see. occur. It would signal another failed season and a continued lack of stability at quarterback for a franchise that just can’t seem to find the answer when it comes to the offensive caller.
The official line is that Howell is a development player for the future. Ron Rivera is so insistent on this story, which is really the only one available to him, that he won’t even discuss the idea that Howell might be running for the backup job. Rivera insists the depth chart is written in stone and reads: Wentz, Heinicke, Howell.
At least Riverboat Ron won’t fight the overwhelming feeling that the rookie quarterback needs to get on the court early. Despite being billed a year ago as one of the top two QB prospects in the 2022 draft, Sam Howell’s journey has brought him to Washington with low expectations and plenty of time to prepare for the challenges he will face. .