What if the Chicago Bears quarterback of future is in the ACC, but it’s not Trevor Lawrence

The Chicago Bears will be in the market for a young quarterback soon, but what if it’s not Trevor Lawrence?

By trading for Nick Foles and not picking up his fifth year option, the Chicago Bears have given up on Mitch Trubisky. There is the facade of a competition for the starting job, but it would be an upset if Foles is not the guy in Week 1.

Even with some heat on head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, the Bears are a sneaky candidate to tank for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence this year. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields might also be on the radar of a concerted effort to get a top pick in next April’s draft.

It’s easy to point to an ACC quarterback who plays in the Carolinas as the Bears potential quarterback of the future. But what if it’s ultimately not Lawrence?

Who could the Chicago Bears wind up looking at as their quarterback of the future?

Mack Brown returned to coaching at North Carolina last year, and he had an impact quarterback right away. Freshman Sam Howell started every game, completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 3,641 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for and caught a touchdown, as the Tar Heels went 7-6 and won their first bowl game since 2013.

Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) recently ranked the best deep passers in college football entering the 2020 season. Howell came in at No. 10, with a 42.2 percent completion rate, a 115.0 passer rating and an average of 14.9 yards per attempt on 20-plus yard throws last year.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Howell has some of the best pure arm strength in the entire country,” PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote. “In 2019, he threw it 40 yards downfield consistently like it was nothing and wouldn’t lose any zip on the ball when throwing on the run. Howell’s six touchdowns on 40-plus yard throws led the FBS, and his 15 touchdowns on 30-plus yard throws were five more than the next-highest player.

According to Treash, Howell’s 31 “big-time throws” on 20-plus yard throws was tied for second-most last year with Fields, only behind Joe Burrow. But seven turnover-worthy plays on those same throws was tied for 10th-most.

The Bears got Foles to restructure his contract upon acquiring him, with the ability for him to void the deal after either of the next two years depending on performance. Where those performance thresholds lie is unknown, but one way or another it’s hard to see Foles being the quarterback in Chicago come 2022.

Howell has already started as many games in college as fellow UNC alum Trubisky did (13), with two years left to polish his game since he will not be eligible until the 2022 draft. So if “Tank For Trevor” is not eventually on this year in Chicago, “Suck for Sam” might be coming in 2021.

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