How Sam Howell's past can define his future as Commanders franchise QB

Taking an in-depth look at Commanders QB Sam Howell's past to predict his future.

Sam Howell
Sam Howell / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Sam Howell comparisons

Any rational Washington Commanders fan understands last year's finale against the Dallas Cowboys was a minimal sample size. But when you combine that with the success Sam Howell had in preseason plus his overall college career, there's plenty of room for optimism.

The only quarterback that showed true potential from last year's class was Kenny Pickett for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both Malik Willis and Matt Corral appear to be fighting just to keep a roster spot.

Has Desmond Ridder shown enough with the Atlanta Falcons? Bringing in Taylor Heinicke was telling, but the same could be said for the Commanders adding Jacoby Brissett for insurance.

Still, for my money, I'd take Howell over any quarterback from last year's class, including Pickett. I just feel like there's so much untapped potential that casual observers - or folks that didn't study all of his college production in full - are missing.

Dan Orlovsky's earlier Russell Wilson comparison makes perfect sense. He's mobile but doesn't rely on his legs to make plays like Lamar Jackson, Mike Vick, or Robert Griffin III. His accuracy, deep ball, and ability to move in the pocket when a play breaks down are his biggest strengths. He carries humble confidence that's key to thriving in the NFL.

Howell often gets Baker Mayfield as a comparison. I don't think that's a bad thing.

Mayfield was a former No. 1 overall pick that broke the rookie touchdown record in 2018. He led the Cleveland Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002 and won - a feat that hadn't been accomplished for that franchise since 1994.

The Browns finished that year with an impressive 11-5 record. A mix of injuries and a feud with upper management derailed Mayfield's 2021 campaign, which led them to ultimately trade him to the Carolina Panthers and give an unprecedented, absurd contract to Deshaun Watson.

If Howell can have the kind of success Mayfield did during those first few years in Cleveland, Washington fans will be ecstatic.

Pro Football Focus has Howell as the 27th starting quarterback heading into the 2023 season ahead of Anthony Richardson, Ridder, C.J. Stroud, Colt McCoy, and Mayfield. Jordan Love and Bryce Young are ranked just ahead.

These preseason rankings and lists are meaningless. Who saw Geno Smith resurrecting his career last season or Brock Purdy going from Mr. Irrelevant to leading the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship game? Almost nobody believed Jalen Hurts would play as well as he did and cement himself as the top signal caller in the NFC.

Orlovsky summed it up perfectly. It doesn't make sense why Howell fell to the fifth round in last year's draft. But Commanders' fans should be thrilled he did.