2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Kenny Pickett
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: In recent years there have been some quarterback prospects who went from late-round or non-prospect status to being the top quarterback for a draft class and high first-round picks. Kyler Murray was expected to be playing professional baseball after being a first-round pick of the Oakland A's, yet he became the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft after a huge season at Oklahoma. A year later Joe Burrow went from being a projected late-round pick to No. 1 overall after a record setting year for LSU. This trend looks poised to continue in 2022 as multiple team sources say they expect Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett to be the first quarterback drafted and he could go high in the first round including being the No. 1 overall-pick.
After seeing action in four games as a freshman, Pickett took over as the starter in 2018 completing 58 percent of his passes for 1,969 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. In 2019 he started all 14 games completing 62 percent of his passes for 3,098 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In the shortened 2020 season, Pickett completed 61 precent of his passes for 2,408 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
After the 2020 season, Pickett was given a late-round estimation if had decided to skip his senior year. Pickett decided to return to Pittsburgh and it was a phenomenal decision. In 2021, Pickett has taken the Pittsburgh program to new heights with their first ACC Championship and he passed Dan Marino as the program's all-time leader in touchdown passes. In 2021 Pickett completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He had five rushing touchdowns as well. After the ACC Championship victory, Pickett decided to sit out the Peach Bowl.
For the NFL, Pickett has the skill set to be a pocket passing quarterback. The most important trait for any pro quarterback is accuracy and Pickett definitely has that as one of his biggest strengths. He is a very accurate passer that can beat good coverage with the placement of his passes. He is able to fit the ball into tight windows and does a superb job of hitting his receivers on the run to lead them for more yards. With quality arm strength, Pickett can fire fastballs into tight windows and also is able to drive the ball vertically downfield. Pickett throws a beautiful deep ball and his deep ball accuracy is phenomenal.
Pickett is very adept at putting air underneath the ball to loft in his throws downfield. Coming from a pro style system under Mark Whipple, Pickett shows advanced field vision to work through his progressions and read defenses. He has his offense mastered and knows where his receivers are going to be. With his field vision and intelligence, Pickett consistently makes good decisions and has ball security to avoid turnovers. However there are times where there are two or three throws a game that he shouldn't make as a gunslinger mentality pops up on occasion.
Pickett shows excellent timing to go with his ball placement to lead his receivers for yards after the catch. On top of his accuracy, throws a very catchable ball and makes things easy for his receivers with his loft and touch to drop passes in to his receivers. Pickett has composure and is comfort in the pocket with the ability to handle the rush without getting rattled. Pickett is a rhythm thrower that is a great fit in a West Coast passing offense.
An added element to his game that makes him more dangerous and effective is his mobility. Pickett does a good job of using his feet when plays break down or nothing is open downfield. He has quickness and athleticism to dodge pass rushers and can rip off yards in chunks as defenses often sleep on his running ability. Pickett is also very wise about when he runs and does not look to run when his first read is covered.
The accuracy and precision of his passes extends to when Pickett is on the run as he does a nice job of placing his passes when his feet aren't set. His feet come into play when he has to avoid a sack or nothing is open downfield. Pickett is able to extend plays and does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield when he runs. Designed runs by Pickett produced some nice plays for Pittsburgh, but in the NFL his team will want be careful and selective about doing that to protect him from injury.
Pickett has a starter's skill set with size, arm talent, and mobility. He also draws rave reviews for work ethic, leadership, and character.
"I think Pickett will go No. 1 overall," said an AFC director of college scouting. "He has the size, accuracy, arm talent, and enough mobility to go there. Plus the character is very good."
For the NFL, Pickett could stand to develop his anticipation, feel, and passing instincts. At times he looks very good in those regards, but other times he is inconsistent. Team sources told me they want to see more anticipation and instincts.
With the way quarterbacks rise in the leadup to the 2022 NFL Draft, Pickett looks like a real candidate to be the first-overall pick and right now multiple team sources are projecting him to be the first quarterback drafted.
Player Comparison: Joe Burrow/Derek Carr. Pickett is kind of a unique prospect and did not have an easy carbon copy comparison. In terms of arm talent, accuracy, and generally a couple mistakes a game, Pickett reminds me of Carr. From a mobility, toughness, and character perspective, Pickett reminds me of Burrow. Both are good NFL starters so being a mix of the two is not a bad thing.
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