QB Sam Howell, North Carolina*

6’1” – 220 lbs.

Background:

North Carolina local who originally committed to Florida St. before ending up with the Tar Heels. Was the first true freshman to start the season opener for the team, ending the year with 3,641 yards (61.4%, 8.6 YPA), 38 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Followed that up with 3,586 yards (68.1%, 10.3 YPA), 30 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in a more efficient sophomore campaign, then ended last year with 3,056 yards (62.5%, 8.8 YPA), 24 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and a massive leap in rushing output, from 92-146-5 in 2020 to 183-828-11 in 2021, before declaring for the draft. North Carolina went 21-17 over the past three seasons. Spent all three seasons under offensive coordinator Phil Longo, who runs an Air Raid-style passing attack.

Positives:

Productive three-year starter. Mechanics look relaxed and consistent. Has a high release point but can drop it when needed. Accurate passer who looks good operating on rhythm throws. Maintains his composure and uses the time he’s given. Nice pocket presence/toughness; will stand in to complete a throw. Knows when to take something off of his throws; overall touch is very good. Capable of threatening the defense downfield against zone coverage. Uses a nice high arc down the sidelines, showing anticipation on bucket throws. Nice pocket movement to escape from pressure; knows how to make defenders miss. Has above-average speed to pick up chunks or first-downs on designed runs or scrambles up the middle, using his thick build to get physical with opposing defenders and fight for additional yardage.

Negatives:

Wasn’t quite as productive throwing the ball this past season, although he did lose a lot of skill position players. On the small side for a pro quarterback. Offense looks like it was shotgun-only and featured a lot of single-read throws; some bird-dogging to his game, allowing defenders to break on his throws. Too many plays where his primary read was covered and he scrambled instead of going to his second and third reads. Doesn’t generate a ton of velocity on his passes; better anticipating than fitting the ball into tight windows. Some attempts where he’s fading back instead of transferring weight effectively. Often drops his eyes once he starts moving. Physical style of play could lead to injuries.

Summary:

A three-year starter who combines pretty sound mechanics, impressive composure, nice touch and ball placement, and the ability to escape pressure and pick up first-downs with his feet. Looks likely to come off the board in the couple of rounds as a potential starting-caliber quarterback a la Baker Mayfield, although he might need some time to get used to going through progressions and operating from under center.

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