Kenny Pickett Draft Profile
In a year that seems to be a "down year" for quarterbacks, I believe University of Pittsburgh quarterback, Kenny Pickett, could be the diamond in the rough. Pickett is calm under pressure and steps up when his teammates need him the most. At the University of Pittsburgh, Pickett broke all of Dan Marino’s numbers and finished his career as the most prolific passer in the school’s history. Pickett’s ability to use his legs as both a runner and as a way to extend plays makes him the perfect fit in a Shanahan-style west coast offense. Pickett isn’t a traditional pocket passer; he is capable of throwing the ball on the run and he’d do a great job executing an offense that utilizes both play-action passes and bootlegs. While at Pitt, Pickett showed exponential improvement from his junior to senior season. Pickett’s hard work led to him finishing top three in Heisman voting, an 11-2 record, and an ACC championship. As an NFL quarterback, Pickett has great potential and should be a top 10 pick in April.
The most glaring trait that stood out when watching Pickett play was his calm presence when under pressure. Whether it be 300 lb. defensive linemen chasing him down or crucial third and fourth down throws, Pickett was never panicked. He has a natural aptitude for making plays in the biggest moments. It’s the same gene that Joe Burrow, Russell Wilson, and all of the best quarterbacks in the NFL share. In his final season at Pitt, the moment never felt too big for Pickett; it felt like he was in control at all times. Pickett is capable of making plays when the pocket is collapsing on him and he does a great job at evading rushers that are trying to take his head off. He is able to improvise when the play breaks down and make off-schedule plays; these are plays that cannot be coached. It genuinely feels like he is playing backyard football; it just looks like he is having fun on the field slinging the rock. Pickett does a great job at reading defenders to find holes in zone coverage; this is how he was able to pick Clemson’s defense apart. While Pickett may not be as fast as Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson, he is still able to pick up first downs with his legs and extend plays outside of the pocket. With Pickett at quarterback, defenses have to defend every inch of the field. There isn’t a throw that he can’t make; he has a very impressive arm. Pickett can throw fastballs towards the middle of the field and is capable of hitting receivers perfectly in stride outside of the numbers. The saying that resides for Russell Wilson, “let Russ cook” applies to Pickett as well. In the NFL, his offensive coordinator cannot limit him to playing traditional football; Pickett isn’t a traditional drop-back quarterback. He is at his best when he’s able to run around and play free. There is a good chance that Pickett ends up as the best quarterback in this draft class; he just needs to land with the right offense.
While Pickett’s potential is extremely promising, there are a few mechanical and psychological flaws in Pickett’s game that needs fixing. While Pickett does throw a very beautiful deep ball, his deep passes tend to be inconsistent because he overstrides at the top of his hitch. This elongated stride causes him to mistime certain passes and throw inaccurate balls. This was a similar issue that Trey Lance had coming out of North Dakota State, but Lance was able to shorten his stride on deep passes between his two pro days. On top of that, he also needs to focus on ball security and be precautious when throwing the ball across his body. The psychological flaws that I noted include his tendency to escape the pocket prematurely and not keeping his eyes downfield. While Pickett is phenomenal at making off-schedule plays, he’ll occasionally miss open receivers because he is trying to get out of the pocket. There are also times where Pickett focuses too much making defenders miss rather than keeping his eyes downfield. This causes him to take sacks instead of finding open receivers or throwing the ball away. These two psychological mishaps could be attributed to him playing with an offensive line that wasn’t very good. Patience in the pocket will come with a better offensive line and by getting comfortable with taking hits. If Pickett can sure up these certain issues, he is capable of being a top ten quarterback in the NFL.
It is no secret that this year is a relatively weak quarterback class, but Pickett looks to be the diamond in the rough. His stillness under pressure, inherent mobility, improvisational skills, and strong-arm remind me a lot of Joe Burrow. I believe he’s worthy of being the top quarterback selected in April’s draft and should be a first-round pick. With Russell Wilson gone and the Seahawks being the first "QB-needy" team with a pick in this draft, there is a good chance Pickett ends up playing in Seattle. He is a perfect fit for the Shanahan/LaFleur style west coast offense. The only teams right now that run that system with a potential need at quarterback are the Falcons and Vikings. With that being said, the Seahawks could change their entire system for him if they think he's their franchise guy. Pickett is a really good prospect who has a chance at greatness.
Arm Strength + Deep Ball 8.5/10
Pocket poise 6/8
Improvisational Skills 5/5
Decision Making + IQ 8/10
Against the Blitz 7.25/8
Throw on the Run 5/5
Final Rating: 86
Pro Comparison: Joe Burrow
Team Fits: Falcons, Vikings, Seahawks
Draft Grade: Top 32 Player
Draft Projection: Top 10 Pick