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The Daily Tar Heel

Former UNC quarterback Sam Howell garners attention from scouts at 2022 Senior Bowl

20211106_Liu_UNCvWakeForest-3.jpg
Junior quarterback Sam Howell (7) runs the ball at the UNC v. Wake Forest game on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels won 58-55.

Ahead of this spring's NFL draft, former UNC quarterback Sam Howell is making strides to raise his status as an NFL prospect.

Howell was one of six quarterbacks from around the country who were invited to play in the 2022 Senior Bowl. This year's game was held on Feb. 5 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

The Senior Bowl serves as a post-season college football all-star game that showcases the best NFL draft prospects who have completed their college eligibility.

Howell played on the American Team alongside quarterbacks Malik Willis from Liberty University and Bailey Zappe from Western Kentucky University. When he was provided the opportunity, Howell made the most of it and put up an impressive stat line, completing six of his nine pass attempts for 67 yards and no interceptions, as well as 29 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

With a combination of the week-long practice that preceded the game and the game itself, Howell was able to impress many analysts, scouts and NFL teams. Outlets praised Howell for his consistency and arm strength, which has resulted in his draft stock to trend up. ACCN Studio Analyst Eric Mac Lain even reported that Howell was considered the most consistent quarterback at the Senior Bowl.


Before this year’s season began, Howell was considered by some as a possible No. 1 overall selection after he had completed 68.1 percent of his throws with 30 touchdowns, while only throwing seven interceptions in his true sophomore season. Subsequently, Howell lost four key skill-position players after the 2020 season to the NFL — running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter and wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, resulting in the regression of his performance last season.

Howell’s stellar play at the Senior Bowl, however, could help improve his draft stock.

Howell managed to earn high praise from Pro Football Focus’ Anthony Treash, who believes Howell’s arm talent is at an "elite" level. CBS Sports draft expert Ryan Wilson also believed that Howell had a productive outing, valuing his legs and his arm strength.

Even though Howell has previously drawn comparisons to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, Wilson believes Mayfield was a superior and more reliable passer coming out of Oklahoma, but Howell is the greater athlete.

Howell’s argument for being drafted over quarterbacks like Willis, Zappe and Nevada's Carson Strong — who also played in the Senior Bowl — is the fact that he had the benefit of facing tougher opponents each week during his tenure at UNC.

Zappe and Strong each threw one interception in the Senior Bowl, and Strong was the only quarterback who had the ball stripped (recovered by the offense). Furthermore, Howell’s rushing touchdown was the game’s sole touchdown on the ground.

His overall performance outshined some of the competing quarterbacks, giving him an added plus for his future stock.

With Brown currently in the NFL for the Washington Commanders and Williams on the Denver Broncos, there is a small chance that Howell could fall into either franchise and play alongside one of his former teammates. The Broncos in particular remain in the conversation of teams who need a quarterback, so Howell could potentially fit there.

The 2022 NFL Draft is scheduled to begin Thursday, April 28 in Nevada, and will be televised on ESPN, ABC and NFL Network.

@CaparelliHunter 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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