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Saturday June 25th

Tar Heels in the pros: a look at the five former Tar Heels selected in the NFL Draft

Junior quarterback Sam Howell (7) carries the ball at the Duke's Mayo Bowl against South Carolina at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Dec. 30, 2021. UNC lost 21-38.
Buy Photos Junior quarterback Sam Howell (7) carries the ball at the Duke's Mayo Bowl against South Carolina at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Dec. 30, 2021. UNC lost 21-38.

Four former members of the North Carolina football team were selected in the 2022 NFL Draft this weekend, with all of them being offensive players.

Here’s a look at where the four Tar Heels ended up and how they will fit in at the professional level.

Joshua Ezeudu, New York Giants, 67th overall

The Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season, and it was clear that was a problem they were looking to fix through the draft. After drafting an elite offensive tackle in Alabama’s Evan Neal with the seventh overall pick, picking up Ezeudu is another step in the right direction for improving the protection for Giant's quarterback Daniel Jones.

Out of the 20 total offensive guards selected, Ezeudu was picked fifth. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 308 pounds, the redshirt junior started 28 of his 35 career games at UNC.

As a sophomore, Ezeudu was a third team All-ACC selection. As a junior, Ezeudu was an All-ACC Honorable Mention selection and blocked for an offense that averaged 35.2 points per game.

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders, 144th overall

Once upon a time, Howell was projected to be a potential top-ten pick.

But after an up-and-down 2021 campaign, Howell — who broke virtually every UNC passing record in his three seasons at North Carolina — saw his draft position slide down four rounds.

The Indian Trail, N.C. native is off to the nation’s capital, where he will be competing with Taylor Heinicke for the backup quarterback role. Howell will also be reunited with wide receiver Dyami Brown, who recorded consecutive 1,000 yard seasons in 2019 and 2020 as a Tar Heel.

It’s been a hectic offseason for the Commanders, who underwent a name change and traded numerous draft picks for quarterback Carson Wentz, a former MVP-caliber player. The Commanders finished the 2021 season with a 7-10 record and ranked 21st in the NFL for passing offense.

With the veteran Wentz at the helm and Heinicke having been a previous starter for the Commanders, it's unlikely that Howell will see much of the field as a rookie.

Ty Chandler, Minnesota Vikings, 169th overall

ESPN ranked Chandler as the No. 8 running back prospect in the draft. In his lone season as a Tar Heel, Chandler led North Carolina with 1,092 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. The second team All-ACC selection had numerous games with at least two scores, the most notable of these being his 213-yard, four-touchdown supernova against the then-undefeated Wake Forest.

Chandler will be playing behind one of the NFL's best running backs in Vikings’ starter Dalvin Cook. Cook cemented himself as one of the best backs in the league after his impressive 2020 campaign, when he totaled 16 rushing touchdowns and 1,557 rushing yards. 

Cook has missed some games in the past few seasons, opening up opportunities for Alexander Mattison to solidify his backup role. Mattison rushed for over 400 yards with the Vikings in each of his past three seasons. Despite Chandler's breakout season in 2021, considering the talent and experience of Cook and Mattison, don't expect him to get many touches next season.

Marcus McKethan, New York Giants, 173rd overall

The Giants used one of their final picks to draft another offensive guard in McKethan, a sturdy 6-foot-7 senior who started in 37 of his last 38  games at UNC. The Giants, who finished last season with a 4-13 record, averaged a measly 287.3 total offensive yards per game, which was second-worst in the league. 

McKethan will join Ezeudu in New York, where both offensive linemen should expect to play a decent amount of snaps as the Giants attempt to turn around their offense in the upcoming year.

@danielhwei

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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