Washington spent the 144th selection of the 2022 NFL Draft on North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell on Saturday in Las Vegas.
A three-year starter at North Carolina (2019-2021), Howell owns excellent arm strength and plus-athleticism outside the pocket. During his time at Chapel Hill, the QB started 37 games, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 10,283 yards with 92 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,009 yards on 369 attempts with an additional 17 touchdowns.
Howell boasts a quick release and above-average arm strength, and throws a pretty deep ball. He generated 82 big-time throws in his college career, 16 more than any other FBS QB and 28 more than any other Power Five QB in that span. The 21-year-old saw his production drop in 2021 after the Tar Heels lost all his weapons from a superb 2020 season to the NFL (RBs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, and WRs Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome). Who wouldn't struggle some after losing all that talent? In 2021, Howell completed 62.5 percent of 347 attempts for 3,056 yards with 24 TDs and nine INTs.
He's not Lamar Jackson, but Howell can thrive in the RPO game, and he displays burst in the open field. Howell ran a lot more in 2021, earning 828 yards (more than five times his previous output) on 183 attempts.
The biggest question for Howell revolves around what exactly happened in 2021, a season in which he entered as one of the top quarterback prospects before eventually falling to the fifth round. Was it just a loss of talent, or a revelation of a tendency to attempt to do too much? Howell certainly gave his maximum effort to his final season with the Tar Heels, it just didn't pay off as most envisioned.
Howell enters a pretty good situation, with all things considered. Wentz has been far from consistent in the last couple of years, and Howell is seen as a pro-ready signal-caller in the same vein as the first quarterback taken in this class, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett.
That doesn't mean Howell is going to be expected to push Wentz for the starting job in the summer. But taking Howell adds another option to Washington's quarterback room beyond Taylor Heinicke, and addresses a major goal for the Commanders this offseason. It just might create a path to the field for Howell, too.