Two Huge Surprises Help Washington Land Their QB

When it comes to the NFL you can argue pretty much anything. You can’t, however, argue that the 4 most coveted positions on any team are Quarterback, Edge Rusher, CB, and OT. Possibly in that order. PFF’s current Top 15 list 3 Edge Rushers at 1, 2, and 6. There are also 5 OTs ranked in the top 15, although 2 of them probably look better as OGs in the NFL. 5 CBs, a WR and a FS round out the top 15. The teams picking before Washington in the draft (picks 1-10) are all in complete rebuild mode. Washington, I would argue, is not in complete rebuild mode. We have a good O Line, a star WR, a couple good TEs, and some good RBs. Defensively we had a down year but there is clearly some talent on the defense. So, while the Sports Junkies called PFF’s most recent draft a fluke in that no QBs came off the Board prior to pick 11, I would disagree. It’s very possible that the teams picking in the top 10 this year might find Edge Rushers, OTs, and CBs (all guaranteed can’t miss day one starters) preferable to this year’s quarterbacks (all gigantic question marks). So surprise #1 is that when Washington picks at 11 I’m guessing no QBs will have yet been drafted.

Surprise #2 is that, given all the quarterbacks are still available, Rivera and company draft PFFs 3rd ranked QB. My rational takes into consideration that Ron Rivera will soon be in year 3 of his 5 year deal. He’ll be given a little slack in 2022. But, if 2023 comes and goes with no noticeable improvement, Rivera will never see year 5 of his contract. The money is guaranteed, but he’ll be gone. He knows this. So does everybody else. That’s why, given a choice between Pickett, Corral, and Howell, Washington drafts Sam Howell to be their quarterback. The rational, certainly debatable, as is everything, makes at least a little sense.

While no one should insist that the rookie, whoever that might be, has to start on day one, the fans and the owner are not going to tolerate an entire year with Heineke running the offense. So we need someone who has the potential to come in and start mid-season (or earlier). The transition from college to pro is enormously difficult, especially at the quarterback position. While it is for the most part a crap shoot, the high school to college transition might shed a glimmer of light on how these guys will handle moving up to the big leagues.

Pickett’s freshman year at Pitt was awful. In 4 games he threw 1 TD. He was so bad that he ended up getting benched and redshirted. Years 2, 3, and 4 saw him put up 12, 13, and 13 TDs respectively. Then in year 5 as a red shirted senior he exploded for 42 TDs. But, as the Sports Junkies were quick to point out, not only did Pitt not play against a good defense all year, they didn’t play against a defense that wasn’t terrible. Still, 42 TDs is 42 TDs.

Matt Corral doubled Pickett’s output as a freshman at Ole Miss. He threw 2 TDs. During his Sophomore year he tripled that production and threw for 6 TDs. During year 3 something clicked and Corral tossed 29 TDs. But he also threw 14 interceptions. Rah roh! Last year Corral threw 20 TDs and only 5 interceptions. He also ran for 713 yards and 11 TDs. But, even though Corral is 23 years old he’s not eligible to play in the Senior Bowl because he hasn’t graduated. Red flag? Who knows.

Sam Howell threw for 38 TDs to only 7 interceptions as a freshman. As a sophomore he tossed 30 TDs to 7 interceptions. In 2021 the 21 year old (Corral is 23 and Pickett will be 24 by the time the 2022 NFL season starts) Howell threw 24 TDs and 9 interceptions. He also ran for 1,072 yards and 11 TDs while breaking a ridiculous 63 tackles. Scouts pointed to a "down" year for Howell as his 24 TDs paled in comparison to his record setting performances in 2019 and 2020. It’s worth noting that Howell’s "down" year still saw him outperform Corral as a rusher and a passer. Howell is known for his lightening quick release, something that will surely benefit him in the NFL. Also noteworthy is that Howell threw at least one TD in every single college game he ever played in. Also worth mentioning is the fact that last year Howell lost his 4 top receivers to the NFL. And though North Carolina only won 6 games last year, Howell basically won every one of them by himself. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and 11TDs and threw for over 3,000 and 24 TDs. Talk about putting a team on your shoulders. In his 3 years at Carolina he threw for over 10,000 yards and 92 TDs.

I like Howell better than any QB in this draft. There are sure to be many who like Pickett more, or Corral. But, as Ron Rivera really needs a quarterback who can start at some point in his rookie year I think that gives the edge to Howell. There is no denying the transition from college to pro is monumentally more difficult than the high school to college transition. I think there is still a correlation to be made. Corral and Pickett weren’t just slow to develop into good college quarterbacks, they were horrible out of the gate. And, Howell didn’t just make the transition more quickly but he did it while obliterating ACC passing records. The free agent QB market is bleak at best. If I had to gamble on one of the rookie quarterbacks to save my job my money would be on Howell.