Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has officially retired. There is little debate that he had the greatest career in NFL history and even in his short time with the Bucs he was the greatest quarterback that this franchise has ever had. However, the Bucs must now take a ture Brady mindset in that all the matters is the next one.
Tampa Bay still has a strong roster that should compete for the division crown regardless of who the quarterback is. The objective now is to bring in the best quarterback that will help keep them in contention for a Super Bowl. Ideally, that would be a guy like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. More realistically, the Bucs could be drafting a quarterback early this year.
Unfortunately, this is said to be a weak draft class of quarterbacks. And compared to last year, there’s definitely truth to that. This class seems to lack the elite talent of a Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. Even the high upside projects like Trey Lance and Zach Wilson are in short supply. However, there is good talent to be had in the middle and back end of the first round.
One such quarterback is North Carolina star Sam Howell. To this point he has consistently been projected to be a mid to late first round draft pick. That puts him right in the range of where the Buccaneers will be picking. If the Bucs need a quarterback and Howell is available then they’d be foolish to pass on him. Here’s why.
Howell is quietly one of the most athletic quarterbacks in this draft. At 6’0 tall and 220 lbs, Howell has a thick, strong build that makes it difficult for defenders to bring him down. He will often bounce off would be tackles in space if the defender doesn’t wrap him up. This is an excellent compliment to his mobility.
This ability to run makes Howell dangerous. Last season he rushed for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns. Of course, this goes well beyond the ability to scramble and gash defenses. Howell is the type of quarterback that you can legitimately design running plays around. Having a more viable threat in run pass option (RPO) plays as well as quarterback draws and power runs will make this offense that much more dynamic.
He Can Sling It
When a quarterback runs as well as Howell does it often comes at the expense of their passing ability. However, Howell is a true dual threat player who is even better as a passer than he is a runner. This is a unique skill set that only a few NFL quarterbacks (like Josh Allen or Kyler Murray) have.
In 2020 Howell threw for 3586 yards and 30 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions. He excelled at making big throws down the field and throwing the deep ball. So much so that he helped get four of his playmakers drafted in the NFL draft.
With his top targets playing in the NFL last year, Howell took a step back statistically. He had 3056 passing yards and 24 touchdowns last season. However, he seemed to take a step forward in terms of his maturity as a passer. Despite having more interceptions in 2021, Howell took fewer risks and did a better job of protecting the ball while still taking shots down field.
Inevitably, this will have been good for Howell. He’s shown that he can air it out all over the field when he has NFL caliber playmakers around him and he’s shown he can play it safe and not force passes when it’s not there. This will serve him well at the NFL level.
The explanation “wise beyond his years” would certainly apply to Howell. Despite only being a junior, the 21 year old Howell started 37 games in college. This means he won the starting job as a freshman and led the offense every game since.
This is more experience than some of the older quarterbacks in this class. It’s certainly more experience against high level competition than guys like Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder or Carson Strong who have all been mentioned as potential first round picks. This ability to go to a bigger, faster league and understand the learning curve on what it take to play at a high level right away is just another check mark on Howell’s resume.
Is a rookie quarterback ideal for a team in the midst of a Super Bowl window? No, probably not. However, considering the cost it would take to bring in an established star then drafting a quarterback becomes much more appealing. The right rookie can keep the Buccaneers as a contender now and even extend their success long term. It’s also worth noting the value or a rookie quarterback contract which would allow the Buccaneers to invest their money in strengthening the roster further.
Sam Howell is that right rookie for this team. His blend of mobility, maturity and ability to throw the ball down field are exactly what the Buccaneers need. Howell might not be the most polished quarterback in this draft, nor does he have the highest upside. However, he is a guy who can come in right away and has the talent to help lead Tampa Bay to another Super Bowl.
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