Commanders end shocking Sam Howell slide with first pick of Round 5
By Jerry Trotta
Even after the Carson Wentz trade, the Washington Commanders were rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback. While that buzz quieted in the immediate aftermath of the trade, it picked up again on draft week.
First, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler revealed Washington’s in Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, whom they “did a lot of research on” leading up to the draft. Then, MMBQ’s Albert Breer linked the team to UNC’s Sam Howell and Liberty’s Malik Willis.
While every QB not named Desmond Ridder fell lower than expected in the draft, Howell endured an unprecedented slide. Through the first four rounds (143 picks), the former Tar Heel star hadn’t heard his named called.
That changed when the Commanders stepped up to the plate, making Howell their de facto third-string quarterback at No. 144 overall.
The Commanders drafted UNC quarterback Sam Howell in Round 5.
Unlike their first four picks, the Commanders got great value in Howell, who was expected to go no later than Round 2 during the pre-draft process. Picking up a future backup in the fifth round was too good to pass up, especially considering Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe went a few picks earlier to the Patriots.
In Howell, Washington gets the best deep-ball thrower of any QB in this class. The former Tar Heel’s natural arm strength could see him beat out Taylor Heinicke for the backup job, but he’ll have to improve his mechanics in the pocket and accuracy on anticipated throws before he supplants the fan favorite.
A three-year starter in Chapel Hill, Howell completed 63.8% of his passes for 10,283 yards and 92 touchdowns to 23 interceptions for North Carolina.
In 2021, Howell made notable strides as a runner, totaling 828 yards and 11 scores on 4.4 yards per clip. That gives a glimpse to the heights he could reach as a QB if he refines his mechanics and accuracy in the intermediate passing game.
With Wentz locked in as the starter and Heinicke likely to assume backup duties, Howell will be given the necessary time to develop. While he projects as a backup long-term, his arm talent, dual-threat ability and competitive nature (he’s the definition of a gamer) could see him earn starter’s reps down the road.