Scouting Report: QB Sam Howell 6’1” 225 (North Carolina)
Spring 2021 Report Film Exposure: (2020) Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Miami
Mechanical system QB with average arm strength, accuracy (short and intermediate), and mobility, but a great play-action fake and surprisingly good accuracy deep. His best throws are deep. Howell has an excellent play-action fake and benefitted in the passing game in 2020 by having a very strong running game at North Carolina. Operates exclusively out of the shotgun and everything has to be “just right” for him to succeed. He often does the best when he knows where he is going with the ball pre-snap and makes quick decisions with the ball short range. First, read QB who often does not go through his progressions. Tends to lock in with his receivers and not release until receivers are open or are coming open. Often struggles with accuracy when things break down around him.
He operated exclusively out of the shotgun formation at North Carolina and has a habit of clapping his hands for every snap. Does looks decent set up in the pocket. Tendency to pat the ball before delivery. Accuracy is erratic short and intermediate route levels (has thrown 14 interceptions in 2019 and 2020 per espn.com). In these situations, does not tend to throw very “receiver friendly footballs,” often receivers had to adjust to his placement (high, low, behind them). Seems most comfortable in the short and deep route levels and the most uncomfortable throwing in the intermediate route levels.
Howell has average arm strength really shows up in the intermediate route level. Howell showed he can put a little bit more zip on his passes but really has to step into it and push off his back foot to get it there. Looks like a baseball pitcher coming off the mound throwing at the intermediate level. He really has to push it out there.
On deep passes, he can really launch it and put air under the ball. Nice looking arch and landings. Nice placement and touch.
Howell is pegged as a top-rated QB in the 2022 draft class, but I am not seeing it. He looks to me to be a classic “good college quarterback,” who has an overall skill set that will struggle greatly in the NFL. His average arm strength, patting the ball prior to delivery (which gives NFL defensive backs an advantage of where he is going to throw the ball and extra time to jump the route), and his erratic placement short and intermediate will keep him from being a successful starter at the next level. Howell looks anything but pro-ready. He looks like another one of these classic college cookie-cutter quarterbacks who has been coached up from an early age on the art of playing the position. Looks the part in the pocket, but that is where it ends. An example of this was on an out route against Miami. It took everything he had to get the ball out there and the throw resulted in an easy interception. The fact he looks like he only releases when the receivers are open or coming open is a significant problem as well – quarterbacks in the NFL need to throw prior to the break point in a route on timing patterns. I am not seeing any way possible he can develop into a high level NFL QB based on these three games I viewed, which are a sampling of who and what he is as a quarterback. He looks and feels like a very poor man’s Sam Darnold.
Where is Sam Howell on my board?
Daniel Kelly’s Draft Board: Although he is the first prospect I have evaluated for the 2022 NFL draft, I am going to have to wait to put a name on my board. I will give him a 5-7 round league grade, but he does not demonstrate the skill set I would want on my team. I just do not see any way possible he can develop into a franchise QB based on the three games viewed. I see him maybe as a career backup for a team in the league and someone who can be a very short-term fill-in solution. His play-action and deep ball will keep him in the game as a back-up.
Probability of being a bust: High (If he is drafted in the first round)
If I were a GM, this is the question I need to have answered in my mind about Sam Howell: I would ask him, “Tell me about how much the game of football means to you?”
Top 10 concerns about Howell:
- Patting the ball pre-delivers
- Tendency to lock in with receivers
- Inability to throw timing routes before the receiver breaks
- Average arm strength
- Struggles with ball placement and accuracy at short and intermediate levels.
- Very average football-playing speed and mobility
- How he will do if his running back(s) are not highly productive
- Transitioning under center
- Need to clap his hands every time takes a snap (that will eliminate hard counts and cadence inflections to draw the defense off-sides.
- How ineffective he looks when everything breaks down around him.
How NFL defenses will beat him: Blitz, pressure, and do everything possible to knock him out of his routine and comfort zone. Play tight man and take away the short screen game he relies on.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.
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