Alright, that one was a stretch, but I wanted to try it!
In a league that values quarterbacks so highly, a player in a situation like Sam Howell’s should be valued much higher. He’s the starting quarterback on a team with offensive weapons and a solid defense, and he should have had better draft capital.
My thought process will include what I saw from him as a prospect and where he should have been taken. Howell had a great college career from a production standpoint. And here he is, with the reins of an NFL offense and an opportunity to massively increase his value.
Sam Howell’s Career
The College Years
As a freshman, Howell hit the ground running, nearly leading the Tarheels to a victory over eventual national championship runner-ups Clemson. He threw for 38 TDs, only seven INTs, and threw for over 3,600 yards.
Howell had a fine season as a sophomore, but the running back duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter stole the show. Both would eventually land in great situations (for a year at least), and Howell had another strong season.
The 2021 season, his junior campaign, featured a downtick in passing due to a massively changing offense, but Howell showed some rushing upside. He rushed for 828 yards and 11 scores and showed he could make plays on the moves. Howell’s passing faltered a bit, as he barely threw for 3,000 yards and had 24 TDs with nine picks.
The things to love – he was a three-year starter and plays with confidence. Howell has a good head on his shoulders and attacks when he has the ball. I really liked his command of the offense, and he’s got a decent arm. Howell moves well in the pocket and out of structure. He’s good at reading defenses and sees the whole field.
Howell needed to improve his accuracy, throw with anticipation, and clean up ball placement. Seeing his accuracy dip in 2021 was a bit troubling. I wanted to see him trust his eyes and make quicker decisions, but overall, Howell had NFL potential and was my QB1 headed into the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Rookie Season
Howell was inactive until the season’s final week when the Commanders welcomed the Cowboys to DC. He got the start, leading the Commanders to a victory, throwing for 169 yards on 11 of 19 passing, a TD, and an INT, and then added a rushing score. Howell wasn’t asked to do a whole lot, as the defense largely shut down Dallas. It was still encouraging to see him on the field, finally.
Initially, Ron Riviera stated Howell was the starter heading into the 2023 season. Howell has taken all the first-team reps, but recently Riviera added that it was still an open competition and veteran Jacoby Brissett was still a possibility to start. Is that just to put a fire under Howell’s posterior, or could Brissett really take over the team?
Off-season reports have been up and down, but that is to be expected to an extent. Howell made some plays but also had a few rough miscues. Riviera’s comments could have been an attempt to push the second-year quarterback.
Jacoby Brissett on the EB offense and QB competition. pic.twitter.com/QqP1L5M3Rm— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) June 6, 2023
There is still a distinct possibility that Brissett could realistically lead the team into the season. The Commanders have a good team and hope to be in contention for at least a Wild Card spot, and it would be incredibly tough for them to finish ahead of the NFC Champion Eagles squad. Brissett could give the team steady veteran leadership and has been a good “game manager” type of signal-caller before. Brissett gives Washington a safe floor, but the ceiling may not be as high.
Howell gives this team the best chance to improve and push the offense to levels it is capable of. But also has a much lower floor. So, what about the rest of the offense?
The State of the Offense
The offense finished toward the bottom of the league in scoring and passing yardage, with the 25 INTs being the sixth-most in the league. The rushing attack, however, was strong, fourth in attempts, and 12th in yards, but only had a 4.0 YPC average with nine rushing scores.
The young duo of Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson give the team a versatile duo. Still, both guys limit the upside of each other some. Robinson is a much better runner and short-yardage back, while Gibson is a better pass-catching option, with 46 receptions in 2022.
The wide receivers are phenomenal, and each gives Howell, or Brissett, a diverse group of players that are very good at their roles. Terry McLaurin is the quietest WR1 in the league and is often a forgotten player in fantasy. Despite catching 77 receptions for 1,191 yards in 2022, he is an afterthought in drafts.
Curtis Samuel is a “Deebo Lite” receiver, and Washington schemes ways to get him the ball. He caught 64 balls for 656 yards but added 38 rushing attempts for another 187 yards. He could benefit massively from a more potent offense, and be a good fantasy WR3.
Jahan Dotson had 35 receptions for 523 yards and seven scores in his rookie season. Those seven scores led the team. He gives them a playmaker, and Dotson did most of his damage in the last five games of the season.
Why you should be trading for Jahan Dotson 👇 pic.twitter.com/fo2Tn24eHc— Dynasty Nerds (@DynastyNerds) May 30, 2023
Logan Thomas is a steady veteran tight end, and the team’s depth at that position drops off rapidly.
The offensive line is a work in progress and ranks amongst the bottom five in the league. They made a few moves to address it and were plagued with injury last season. If everything works out, I still don’t see it as anything better than a top twenty-ish unit.
As we’ve done with every veteran profile, let’s take a look at Howell’s trade value using the DynastyGM Trade Browser!
You are telling me I can bump down in the 2024 draft and get a starting quarterback on top of it? Yeah, I’ll do this one every day. It obviously depends where you finish, so an early first for a late second and Howell isn’t quite as good – but I would still do it.
This is an interesting value study. I don’t know where you stand on Kyler, but it almost feels like he’s easily the best asset, and Pierce still carries good value for the time being. I have trouble unpackaging this one, but I can see either side.
Diggs is the big name, but he’s turning 30 in November. If I am building, I want the Pittman and Howell side by a chunk, and it’s good value.
I mentioned Howell was my QB1, over Pickett, but it’s hard to argue against his situation. I still think I want Howell by a sliver but realize Pickett holds more value, though. Give me Mixon and Howell.
In every article, I feature a trade from a league I wish I was in. Please, whoever you are – invite me into your league! Howell side for me, over two “who knows where there will be” draft picks.
Quarterbacks are critical in Superflex leagues, and the easiest path to win is to find a Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow and build a good squad around them for a decade. They give you a safety net to do other things and pursue other pieces. But if you can’t get one of the top five guys, I’ve seen numerous squads win with three QB2s and play the matchups.
Howell had comparisons to Baker Mayfield, and while I think he’s better than Mayfield, I realize Howell’s floor is probably close to what we’ve seen from Mayfield. Without the corny white tiger ads. Howell provides a good buy-low window if you need quarterback help, and as long as you aren’t relying on him for QB1 numbers, you could be very happy with his future.
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