Has nice speed and has the closing burst to come upfield and make stops in run support. Flashes pop as a hitter and will come up and deliver a jarring hit to NFL-sized backs. But when he wants to be, he is also a sound, wrap tackler that does a good job driving through the ball carrier. Does a nice job in coverage playing deep Cover-2 and does a good job keeping things in front of him. Flashes some burst and ball skills to jump short routes or break up the deep pass. Will typically make the stop to prevent yards after the catch and rarely is out of position in deep coverage.
Doesn't wow you with his size, speed, or burst. Will try to lower the shoulder a bit too much at times and look for the hit, than the sound wrap tackler. Doesn't have ideal closing burst when dealing with speed to come upfield and make the stop in the open field. Will take a poor angle from time to time.
Howell is a solid run defending safety that works well in the Cover-2 concept, because he's going to play his assignment and not have the mental breakdowns there. But part of that is because he lacks the ideal speed, range, and ball skills to be a playmaker in coverage. He fits best as an undersized strong safety because of his limited coverage potential. He began his career as a running back before moving to safety as a sophomore. He had his best year as a junior as an impact defender in deep coverage, but his production tailed off as a senior, partially due to injuries. Durability could be a concern, since he's missed time in every year at safety. He also ran track at Stanford working in the long jump and 100 meters (best time was 11.39 seconds).
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(9/17) at Arizona: 1 missed tackle; 0 targets, 0 rec., 0 yds
(10/8) vs. Colorado: 2 tgt., 0 rec., 0 yds; 2 PDs
(11/12) vs. Oregon: 1 missed tackle, 1 FF; 0 tgt., 0 rec. 0 yds
(11/26) vs. Notre Dame: 0 tgt., 0 rec. 0 yds
(1/2) vs. Oklahoma St: 0 tgt., 0 rec. 0 yds
2011: 10 GP/10 GS, 52 tackles, 0.0 TFLs, 0.0 sacks, 0 INTs, 4 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR
200: 9/0, 16 rush att., 59 yds, 3.7 avg, 1 TD; 9 rec., 94 yds, 10.4 avg, 0 TDs; 11 KR, 25.8 avg, 0 TDs
- missed 3 games in 2011 with a hand injury, sporting a cast for most of the year
- missed 1 game in 2010 with a wrist injury
- missed 1 game in 2009 with a quad injury
Howell should be able to provide good depth for a team at either safety position, although he fits best as a strong safety because of his abilities as a run defender and his lack of great coverage abilities. He'll work best in a scheme that likes to run a lot of Cover-2 and he's smart and capable enough that he could get by as a starter. But at first, he'll have to produce on special teams and show he can produce there. With some time and development he could be a competent stopgap starter. But he's not the caliber of player that will hold the position for an extended amount of time because of the lack of big plays he'll provide. He can be a competent starter that won't make a bunch of mistakes, but will rarely make the big play as well. Playing opposite a rangy ball-hawking free safety similar to Dawan Landry with Ed Reed in Baltimore will probably be the ideal situation for him as a starter. At worst, Howell should be able to contribute as a reserve and special teams player for the team that drafts him. Whether he gets a second deal with that team or another will be difficult unless he can showcase skill as a starter. Instead, he looks like a career backup that can add depth, and serve as a competent stopgap starter in a pinch.
Howell would be a good reserve strong safety for the Falcons because he's not a guy that is going to make a ton of mistakes. He can play the run, produce on special teams, and not be a guy that is too far out of position in coverage. He doesn't really have the upside to be developed as a starter for the Falcons long-term, instead he can be a solid No. 3 safety that can work in deep coverage in dime packages because a coaching staff can trust him. But for the most part his future in Atlanta will live and die by how good a special teams player he becomes.
Howell is a nice depth safety that has some upside to be a stopgap starter, but not enough to merit being more than a sixth or seventh round choice.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Man Coverage: 4.5
Zone Coverage: 6.0
Ball Skills: 5.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.