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Kenny Pickett vs. Sam Howell: Pitt and North Carolina QBs fight for 2022 NFL Draft positioning

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Kenny Pickett vs. Sam Howell: Pitt and North Carolina QBs fight for 2022 NFL Draft positioning

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Thursday’s ACC meeting between North Carolina and No.21 Pitt features one of the most intriguing quarterback battles, not only in college football, but also in the 2022 positioning of the NFL.

Tar Heels signalman Sam Howell entered the season as a runaway favorite for the league’s top quarterback. He came out of a 2020 campaign in which he completed 237 of 348 passes for 3,586 and 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. While he didn’t have a bad 2021 campaign, he clearly missed having Javonte Williams, Michael Carter and Dyami Brown, among others, on the North Carolina squad.

MORE: What Happened to Sam Howell? How North Carolina QB stats and the stock project took big hits in 2021

Pickett, meanwhile, came out of nowhere in 2021. Sporting News’ mid-season All-America selection has already erased its previous career highs in terms of completion percentage, yards, yards per attempt, yards adjusted per attempt, touchdowns and quarterback score. And he still has three regular season games, a bowl game and, potentially, a spot in the CCA championship game to round out his stats. If he continues at this pace, he could very well fight for the Heisman Trophy.

Their Thursday reunion will be worth watching, not only for fans of good quarterback play, but also for NFL scouts who aren’t sure who should rank higher on their respective draft tables.

With that, Sporting News presents Thursday’s quarterback duel between Howell and Picket:;

Kenny Pickett vs Sam Howell stats

Kenny pickett

Completions Attempts PCT yards Yards per attempt Adjusted YPA Affected Interceptions Quarterback Rating
235 342 68.7 3 171 9.3 10.6 29 3 172.8

Sam howell

Completions Attempts PCT yards Yards per attempt Adjusted YPA Affected Interceptions Quarterback Rating
169 268 63.1 2 408 9.0 9.3 20 7 157.9

Pickett has outperformed Howell in every major passing category nine games during the 2021 college football season. One area where Howell trumps his counterpart Pitt, however, is the ability to rush. The Tar Heels quarterback has run 135 times for 699 yards (an average of 5.2 yards per carry) and eight scores this season. Conversely, Pickett rushed about half as many times as Howell (73 attempts) for 234 yards and a score.

MORE: Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett starts fast and leads Panthers past Tennessee

Kenny Pickett records against Sam Howell

Pickett led the Panthers to a 7-2 record going into Week 11. Pitt (ACC game 4-1) is squarely atop the Coastal, needing only to beat North Carolina and Virginia in weeks. consecutive to win the division. That said, two blatant losses to Western Michigan and Miami took away any chance the Panthers would make the college football playoffs.

Howell’s Tar Heels are a little less wear-resistant, with a 5-4, 3-3 record in the ACC game. That said, there is still an outside chance that North Carolina will win the division, although Mack Brown and Co. need significant help to do so. It starts with a win first and foremost, which would give the Tar Heels a 5-3 conference record. They would also need Pitt to give up one of his two remaining games against Virginia or Syracuse. That would give both teams the same conference record, pushing North Carolina to the top of the divisional standings thanks to their head-to-head victory over the Panthers.

But that’s not all; North Carolina would need both Virginia and Miami – the teams the Tar Heels have had one-on-one wins against – to lose at least one more game each. Virginia Tech can’t win either. If all of these criteria are met, the Tar Heels will travel to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game.

MORE: NFL Mock Draft 2022: Eagles, Jets Land Defensive Stars With A Load Of Better Choices; Steelers and Broncos find QBs

Kenny Pickett 2022 mock NFL Draft

Pickett is considered one of the best quarterbacks available in the 2022 NFL Draft, according to Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer. He predicts the fifth-year quarterback will be the fourth and final pick in the first round, landing with the Pittsburgh Steelers to replace aging Ben Roethlisberger. Here’s what Iyer has to say about Pickett ahead of the draft:

“Pickett has become a first round consideration with other top QBs fading through exceptional play to make the Panthers a formidable offensive-minded foe ranked in the ACC. He has deep ball accuracy. Natural and football-savvy intelligence, which are shaping up well in the Steelers’ current offense under Matt Canada, and the ideal successor is lined up for Ben Roethlisberger.

Sam Howell 2022 mock NFL Draft

Howell’s project stock took a hit in 2021, with many – including SN – not including it in their latest simulation project. That said, he’s still considered a first-round pick by several publications. Below are each of the fictitious drafts that consider it a first round selection:

Publication Selection Editorial team
SCS 28 Detroit Lions
CNB 13th Carolina Panthers
IF 16th Denver Broncos

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