The Washington Commanders kicked off the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by taking North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell with the No. 144 overall pick. Here are five things you need to know about the newest member of the quarterback room, presented by Grubhub.
1. He set a ton of records at North Carolina.
From the time he arrived at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Howell was the Tar Heels' starting quarterback. That gave him 37 games worth of experience and plenty of time to collect a ton of accolades.
According to Howell's bio on North Carolina's athletics page, he ended his career ranked third in the ACC's history with 92 career passing touchdowns, which was the most ever thrown by a quarterback in three seasons or fewer. He ranks fifth in total touchdowns (111) as well as eighth in total offense (11,292), fifth in passing yards (10,283), second in passing yards per game (277.9) and second in passing efficiency (164.2).
There's an even longer list of records Howell holds for North Carolina, including passing yards, passing touchdowns and most consecutive games with a touchdown (37). He also has a slew of single-game and single-season records, including 550 passing yards against Wake Forest in 2020.
Ron Rivera is a fan of bringing in players who have long resumes, and Howell certainly has plenty of evidence to show that he got the most out of his college career.
2. He and Dyami Brown fueled the Tar Heels' offense in 2020.
The 2020 season was a high point for Howell. Rivera even said the tape from that year was "phenomenal," as Howell completed a career high 68.1% of his passes for 3,586 yards and 30 touchdowns. A big reason for that success was Dyami Brown, who the Commanders drafted in the the third round of last year's draft.
Brown was one of Howell's most productive targets in 2020, when the Tar Heels finished the year with an 8-4 record. Brown accounted for nearly a third of Howell's passing yards and eight of his touchdowns.
Brown can also credit Howell for helping him produce several standout performances, including his 240 yards and three touchdowns against Virginia in 2020. Throughout their time together, the Tar Heels' offense was one of the best in the ACC, and in 2020, they led the conference with more than 6,400 yards.
"I'm super fired up," Howell said when asked about rejoining Brown. "He's one of my best friends. We had so much fun together in North Carolina. I just can't wait to play with him again."
3. He thinks the Commanders are "a perfect spot for him."
There was plenty of speculation about where Howell was going to go when he announced that he would enter the 2022 draft class. Many analysts thought that he was a Day 2 pick, but he lasted all the way to Day 3.
The days leading up to Rivera calling him on his phone to deliver the news were a "whirlwind," but Howell sounds pleased with where he ended up.
"I'm super excited to join this wonderful football team led by Coach Rivera, who I have so much respect for," This is a perfect spot for me. It's a team I wanted to play for all along. So, I'm super fired up."
There are a few reasons why Howell likes his destination so much. For starters, the defense is full of talent, including its defensive line. On offense, there are plenty of weapons between Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson among others.
Howell has been in communication with the Commanders since the Senior Bowl. He met with them again at the Scouting Combine and his pro day. There were a couple teams that he was interested in, but the Commanders have stuck out throughout the process because of his conversations with Rivera.
"I knew this was a place that I definitely wanted to be and wanted to play for a guy like that," Howell said. "I'm super excited."
4. He's excited to learn from Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke.
Howell will not be the starter in 2022. Rivera has called him a developmental player who will have the opportunity to learn and grow as the third quarterback on the roster.
"I'm just looking forward to getting to work with those guys," Howell said. "[It'll] Be a lot of fun. I'm fired up."
Wentz, who will be the 2022 starter, is going to provide Howell with the chance to get a firsthand look at a player he's watched throughout his career. It's also one of the reasons why he likes the fact that he landed in Washington.
"I get to go to a place where I can kind of sit back and learn, learn from a guy and just see what it's like to be a pro," Howell said. "So I'm super excited to have this opportunity to do that with Carson."
5. There's no pressure on him to contribute right away.
While Rivera did like Howell as a prospect, he didn't think that the quarterback would fall to the Commanders when they picked in the fifth round. Still, it was a chance they couldn't pass up, and Rivera feels like it was a "home run" pick in terms of the value.
The best part about adding Howell: there's "no pressure" for him to add something to the offense.
"He's a developmental guy that's gonna have nothing but time, gonna have an opportunity to get to know the guys in front of him, learn from these guys," Rivera said. "And there's no pressure on him. And to me, I think it's a really good thing."
Rivera and Martin Mayhew like the player that Howell could become in the future. With the right tutelage, he could become a solid player. For now, though, Howell's priority will be to watch, learn and absorb as much knowledge as possible.
"Here's a young guy that could eventually grow into it and become the kind of guy that can back us up for a while," Rivera said.