The Sam Howell Phenomenon: Fantasy Football’s Hidden Gem

by Nathan Hartunian · Analytics & Advanced Metrics
Sam Howell Fantasy

Your QB Savior

You shut off your television in disgust. Back in August, you drafted Joe Burrow in the fourth round and expected a solid QB1 you wouldn’t have to stress about. Unfortunately, you were wrong. Many fantasy gamers are beginning to accept that they are in for a long and exhausting season streaming quarterbacks. Multiple signal-callers have been unproductive. If you’ve been let down by Burrow, Dak Prescott, Geno Smith, Trevor Lawrence, or even an injured QB like Anthony Richardson, you are scrounging for a QB who can bolster your lineup. For managers in 12-team (or deeper) leagues, Sam Howell is a diamond in the rough that can save your season. The Commanders QB has put together an impressive season, averaging 18.7 fantasy points per game and earning the No. 6 rank among quarterbacks on PlayerProfiler. 


Howell, however, has flown under most owner’s radars after two awful performances. The first was in a blowout loss to the Bills. Howell threw for just 170 yards and had four interceptions in that game, posting an embarrassing 4.6 fantasy points. Following that matchup, however, Howell showcased his bouncebackability. He scored 19.6 fantasy points and threw for nearly three hundred yards against a top-tier Eagles defense. His second bad outing came against the Giants in Week 7, when he scored 10.5 points. He didn’t account for a touchdown and threw an interception. Howell would come back the next two weeks, however, to drop 32.0 and 18.7 fantasy points against the Eagles and Patriots, respectively, combining for a total of five passing touchdowns and averaging 361 passing yards over the two games. 

Bouncebackability is crucial. A common trend in fantasy football is for a good player to have a bad game or two, and then never return to their previous level of play. Howell proved that a bad performance couldn’t faze him and got back to business his next opportunity. Fantasy gamers shouldn’t worry too much about his mediocre Week 8 performance.

The Clutch Gene

If we extract his two bad performances, Howell has averaged 21.8 fantasy points per game this season. What places Howell above other middle-of-the-road QBs is his ability to make big-time throws. Through nine weeks in 2023, Howell has completed 20 Money Throws, more than any other quarterback this season. A Money Throw is defined as a  completed pass requiring exceptional skill or athleticism as well as critical completions in clutch moments during the game. The four passers with the highest number of Money Throws in 2022 were Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Geno Smith, and Patrick Mahomes. All had top-15 (in average fantasy points per game) campaigns in the back half of the season.

Howell is also No. 10 in the league this season in Deep Ball Catchable Pass Rate, which means he creates opportunities for his receivers to make big plays. That is good for Howell, too. Quarterbacks thrive off touchdowns in fantasy more than passing yards. Dynasty managers should take note. If the Commanders were to land a playmaking wide receiver in the future, such as Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill, he could instantly ascend to an elite level that we see from Josh Allen. The only thing that separates the two signal-callers now is the lack of a superstar receiver in Washington — the Commanders best pass-catching option is Terry McLaurin. If we were to see Howell with Stefon Diggs, Howell would see production similar to Allen’s.

Rushing Upside

Fantasy gamers can argue that Howell is not a very athletic quarterback – he ran a 4.73 forty-yard dash – but he still manages to get modest production running the ball. He averages 17.4 rushing yards per game. Admittedly, Howell takes too many sacks and could rush for more, but he is improving his pocket presence and is scrambling more as the season progresses.

Last week, against New England, Howell had a 24-yard run. In his 2021 season at North Carolina, Howell ran for 818 yards and 11 touchdowns. Keep an eye out. As Howell continues to improve his running game, you will see a massive return in his results on game-day.

The Clock Is Ticking

You probably need a quarterback. Why else would you make it this far in the article? Go and get Sam Howell before somebody else beats you to it, or buy low from the end of an unsuspecting manager’s bench. Two weeks ago, Howell was available in 64-percent of ESPN leagues and 45-percent of Yahoo leagues. Howell is currently available in 35-percent of ESPN leagues and 38-percent of Yahoo leagues. He is tremendously underrated, and if you are a bubble team with a weakness at QB, he is bound to get you into the playoffs. 

Thanks for reading. Best of luck in Week 10.