QB prospects Sam Howell, Kenny Pickett to face off in UNC-Pitt

UNC's Sam Howell will be tested against No. 21 Pitt on Thursday.
USA Today

Sam Howell and Kenny Pickett are both potential NFL quarterbacks. On Thursday night, they will compete in a game that could impact where their futures bring them.

North Carolina (5-4) and No. 21 Pittsburgh (7-2) are set to battle at Heinz Field on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET. 

For UNC’s Howell and Pitt’s Pickett, it’s another opportunity to improve their 2022 NFL draft stock.

What are Sam Howell's college stats in 2021?

Four of Howell’s weapons were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, so he has been left with an unfamiliar supporting cast. In nine games this season, Howell has 20 passing touchdowns to seven interceptions. He’s added eight rushing scores and topped 90 rushing yards in six of nine contests.

Howell has certainly dipped down NFL draft boards, but last week’s victory over then-undefeated Wake Forest helped his case. The 21-year-old totaled 320 yards (216 passing, 104 rushing) and three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) in the 58-55 comeback win.

Where is Sam Howell projected to be drafted?

Howell began the season among the favorites to go No. 1 overall, but the narrative quickly changed after a three-interception opening performance. It’s been a turbulent season ever since, with Howell displaying flashes of brilliance compounded by mystifying errors.


He’s likely a fringe first-rounder at this point. Certain mocks have him in the middle of the first round, while others have him falling out entirely. NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro slotted him in at No. 13 to the Carolina Panthers in his latest projection.

What is Kenny Pickett’s NFL Draft projection?

Kenny Pickett’s NFL draft projection is inconsistent across the board, which is to be expected with a late bloomer. 

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. recently ranked Pickett as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class.

What are Kenny Pickett’s stats this season? 

In contrast to Howell, Pickett’s draft stock has only improved this year. The fifth-year senior is in the midst of a breakout statistical season, with 29 passing touchdowns and just three interceptions through nine games. 

Pickett’s previous career high was 13 touchdowns despite starting for Pitt each of the last three years.

Will Kenny Pickett win the 2021 Heisman Trophy? 

Pickett has not only risen up draft boards -- he’s now a dark horse candidate to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s displayed decent mobility and pinpoint accuracy this season.

The 23-year-old’s breakout performance this season actually came in a loss to Central Michigan, when he totaled 382 passing yards and six touchdowns. He has five games this season with at least 380 passing yards.

What’s the NFL scouting report on Sam Howell and Kenny Pickett? 

With two high-profile quarterbacks on the field, a reported 38 NFL scouts and executives from 21 teams will be in attendance to make more of a determination on Howell and Pickett. Five general managers will be there -- the Eagles’ Howie Roseman, the Steelers’ Kevin Colbert, the Raiders’ Mike Mayock, the Vikings’ Rick Spielman and the Broncos’ George Paton.


The New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Washington Football Team and San Francisco 49ers, among other teams, will also have representatives at the game.