UNC QB Sam Howell Declares for 2022 NFL Draft, Will Forgo Senior Season

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 1, 2022

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - OCTOBER 30:  Sam Howell #7 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter in the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 30, 2021 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell announced Saturday on Instagram that he will forgo his senior season with the Tar Heels and enter the 2022 NFL draft.

Howell entered the 2021 campaign with sky-high expectations, including a place in early discussions about the potential No. 1 overall pick in 2022, after tallying 68 passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions across his first two seasons at UNC.

Despite that track record of success, he faded from the spotlight after throwing three interceptions in a season-opening loss to Virginia Tech.

Yet, he quickly returned to form and finished the season with a 62.5 percent completion rate for 3,056 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine picks in 12 games. He added 828 rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground.

One of the biggest highlights of the season came in October when he became the school's all-time leader in passing yards, moving past T.J. Yates for the top spot.

Howell used the record-breaking moment to discuss his entire UNC tenure:

"It's definitely not why I play the game, but it's definitely something that I don't take for granted. It's an awesome deal. You know I have had a lot of help to get to where I am and I am just super blessed by God to be in the position I am in and have all these people around me that allow me to go out there and have success. I can be anywhere in the world and I am here playing football with the people that I love in this locker room.
"I truly enjoy being with those guys. It is just super fun to go out there and fight with my brothers. I think what I take away most from the records are just the memories and the relationships I have been building. It has been a lot of fun and I am excited to finish it out."

The 21-year-old North Carolina native will ultimately go down as one of the best players in Tar Heels history.

Howell didn't have anything left to prove in college, so his decision to make the jump doesn't come as a surprise, especially since he's a potential first-round pick.

His size (6'1'', 220 pounds) will likely become a talking point in the months ahead since his height is a bit below prototypical standards, but his ability to navigate the pocket, and escape it to run when necessary, has allowed him to minimize the impact on his game.

He's capable of being a day-one starter depending on where he lands, but spending a little time on the sideline behind a veteran wouldn't hurt development, either.

During the predraft process, Howell figures to battle with the likes of Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett, Liberty's Malik Willis, Mississippi's Matt Corral and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder for the right to be the first quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL draft.