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Almost every 2022 NFL Draft mock features Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett being the top two quarterbacks selected in either order. After that, no one is really sure where the likes of Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, or Ole Miss’ Matt Corral will be selected.

When discussing those five quarterbacks, the athletic, dual-threat Willis is often cited as the one destined to be the greatest. Others have suggested Pickett, a 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist, will thrive because he’s considered the most “pro-ready” after a five-season career at Pitt.

What if we told you that, if recent history continues, Howell could actually become the 2022 draft’s most successful quarterback when all is said and done?

Sam Howell should become the 10th early-entrant quarterback to throw for at least 80 touchdowns in college before being drafted

Where will Sam Howell be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft?
If recent trends continue, North Carolina’s Sam Howell could emerge as the 2022 NFL Draft’s best quarterback | Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Barring anything unexpected, Howell will be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. Some mocks have suggested he’ll go as early as the top 10, while others have him going late in the second or even at some point in the third round.

That right there is why I will continue insisting the draft is a crapshoot.

Howell threw 92 touchdown passes in three seasons at UNC before leaving school following the 2021 season. If (or when, if we really want to be technical) he hears his name called in the upcoming draft, he’ll become the 10th quarterback to throw for over 80 scores in college, enter the draft early, and be drafted. Redshirt sophomores, juniors, and redshirt juniors are all considered early entrants; Howell left the Tar Heels as a true junior.

The other nine quarterbacks in question?

QuarterbackTouchdowns thrown in collegeSchoolYear draftedWhen were they drafted?Age in first NFL start
Andrew Luck82Stanford2012No. 1 overall22 (turned 23 three days later)
Ben Roethlisberger84Miami (OH)2004No. 11 overall22
Deshaun Watson90Clemson2017No. 12 overall22 (celebrated birthday on NFL debut)
Jared Goff96California2016No. 2 overall22
Marcus Mariota105Oregon2015No. 1 overall21 (turned 22 midway through season)
Patrick Mahomes93Texas Tech2017No. 10 overall22
Sam Bradford88Oklahoma2010No. 1 overall22 (turned 23 midway through season)
Trevor Lawrence90Clemson2021No. 1 overall21 (turned 22 midway through season)
Tua Tagovailoa87Alabama2020No. 5 overall22

Talk about an impressive list. For what it’s worth, Howell will turn 22 on Sept. 16, a week after the NFL opens its season.

Several of those nine quarterbacks became a top-two signal-caller in their respective classes


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Think about those nine quarterbacks for a second. Even if the jury is still out on Lawrence and Tagovailoa, both were selected early in the first round (No. 1 and No. 5, respectively) for a reason. Roethlisberger is all but a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Mahomes is well on pace to join him despite only starting for four seasons. Luck was among the sport’s top young quarterbacks before injuries derailed his career.

Then, there’s Watson, who was arguably a top-five quarterback when the 2020 season ended. However, he didn’t play in 2021 amid 22 pending civil cases alleging sexual misconduct and assault. The Cleveland Browns recently gave up six total draft picks to acquire him from the Houston Texans, and he immediately signed a contract worth $230 million in guaranteed money.

As for the other six quarterbacks? Let’s just say that, while not all are on a Hall of Fame path, the majority are easily among their draft group’s most productive and successful signal-callers.

QuarterbackYear draftedWin-loss record Regular-season passing touchdowns (and rank among draftees)Pro Bowl and total AP All-Pro nodsPlayoff recordSuper Bowl rings through 2021 season?Retired as of April 2022?
Andrew Luck201253-33-0171 (fourth behind Russell Wilson’s 292, Kirk Cousins’ 223, and Ryan Tannehill’s 199)4, 04-40Yes
Ben Roethlisberger2004165-81-1418 (second behind Philip Rivers’ 421)6, 013-102Yes
Deshaun Watson201728-25104 (second behind Patrick Mahomes’ 151)3, 01-20No
Jared Goff201645-37-1126 (third behind Dak Prescott’s 143 and Carson Wentz’s 140)2, 02-30No
Marcus Mariota201529-3277 (second behind Jameis Winston’s 135)0, 01-10No
Patrick Mahomes201750-13151 (top in class)4, 2 (one first-team, one second-team)8-31No
Sam Bradford201034-48-1103 (top in class)0, 00-00Yes
Trevor Lawrence20213-1412 (third behind Mac Jones’ 22 and Davis Mills’ 16)0, 00-00No
Tua Tagovailoa202013-827 (third behind Justin Herbert’s 69 and Joe Burrow’s 47)0, 00-00No

Now, in fairness, there’s only so much fairness in comparing Bradford or Mariota, two men at the top of weak quarterback classes, to Luck and Roethlisberger. In fact, the latter could be one of three 2004 quarterbacks, along with Eli Manning (the No. 1 pick in 2004) and Rivers (No. 4), who eventually enter the Hall of Fame.

However, the point here isn’t to measure fairness. It’s to ask if recent history will help Howell become a top quarterback in his class. Bradford, for all of his flaws, played well when healthy. Goff and Mariota have had their moments in the NFL, although both may have a long-term future as backups. The latter, even if he was part of a weak quarterback group, wasn’t worse than the quarterbacks who followed him in that year’s draft.

Then, you have the obvious success stories such as Mahomes and Roethlisberger. Enough said there.

Does this chart guarantee Howell will win a Super Bowl? No. Does it guarantee he’ll be a perennial Pro Bowl starter? Not necessarily. But in what’s considered a weak quarterback class, at least the North Carolina product potentially has recent history working in his favor. For one team, that might be enough to feel comfortable rolling the dice earlier than some fans might expect.

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