The Rise of Kenny Pickett
(Photo courtesy of 247 Sports)
Every draft season, the QB position is always the talk of the town. This year's QB class is one the weakest we have ever seen. This is slowly approaching the infamous 2013 class where EJ Manual was the highlight. However, in a QB-centric league, even though no one deserves to be taken in the first, expect plenty of QB's taken in the first round.
Every year we see one QB shoot up draft boards from their pre-season ranking. Kyler Murray in 2018 and Joe Burrow in 2019 went from on no one's radar to the first overall pick. Mac Jones went from a day 3 pick to the front runner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year. The 2021 season has seen the rise of Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett.
Pre-season Heisman rankings had Kenny P unranked. By the end of the season, he finished 3rd in Heisman voting behind Alabama QB Bryce Young and Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson. Heading into this season, Pickett was ranked as low as QB10 in this draft. In one season some have him as QB1 and as low as QB5. His rise from a possible undrafted player to being the possible first QB taken makes his rise
I expect Kenny Pickett to be the first QB taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. Let's take a look at who Kenny Pickett is.
I hate stat-watching, but I know some people (they will not admit it) love to stat-watch. So let's take a look at Kenny P's 2021 and career stats.
4,319 Passing Yards
165.3 QB rating
241 Rushing yards and 5 Rushing TD's
12,303 Passing Yards
136.6 QB rating
809 Rushing Yards and 20 Rushing TD's
Stat-wise, it is obvious that his senior year was his best season. More than 50% of his passing stats were accumulated from his senior season.
There are 3 areas that have helped Kenny Pickett rise up draft boards. His accuracy, leadership, and pocket manipulation. Once you dive deep into each of these areas, you get into sub-areas. The list of skills for him goes on and on.
Pickett's accuracy improved tremendously from 2020 to 2021. It improved more than any other player in college football this season. His accuracy is credited to his arm strength. You do not view him as a long-ball caliber QB, but he's easily able to make these throws. One thing I love about his arm strength and accuracy is he does not need to dig deep to make the throws.
All of this comes from his mechanics. He can get himself in a position to make the plays. That is either slowing his mechanics down to let the play develop or speeding it up to get the play underway.
He is able to make the long pass as he is off-balanced and about to be hit by the Tennessee defender.
Even on shorter throws, he is able to accurate throws. Even when he is on the run, he can make the throws. Check this throw out on the run.
His mechanics are very good from where he was to where he is now. I love how he can get himself in a position to make the correct play. However, his arm strength can be taken to the next level if he digs his feet in more. He makes the plays a lot, but an ACC defense and an NFL defense are two different things. If he can really focus on getting his mechanics to an elite level, he can improve to QB1 in this class.
There is not much film I can provide for this. The role of the QB is to be the leader of the offense and Kenny Pickett did just that plus more. Kenny Pickett is the best QB in program history, and yes that means he is better than Dan Marino. Does this make Kenny Pickett a guaranteed All-Pro or Hall of Fame QB...absolutely not. He will never live up to NFL Dan Marino, but he surpassed him as a collegiate QB.
Look at some of Pickett's games this season. A late TD against Tennessee helped Pitt complete the comeback on the road. He dominated the 2nd half against Clemson to officially eliminate Clemson from any championship hopes. An overtime TD against North Carolina to keep their ACC title hopes alive. A 4 TD game against Virginia clinched a spot in the conference championship game. In the conference championship game, he not only won the game, but he left with every major passing record in program history.
We all saw how Pitt faired in the Peach Bowl against Michigan State. I will say this, if Pickett played, Pitt would have won that football game. However, I respect why he opted out.
Pickett is not viewed as a mobile QB, but he does not play like a pocket passer. He does a really good job at combining both. If you were to view him as a mobile QB, he would drop in your rankings. If you listed him as a pocket passer, he would drop. However, when you combine the two, you have one of the best QB prospects in this draft.
When Pickett is in the pocket, he seems very comfortable. When the pocket collapses, he does a great job of getting out of the trouble and still making the play. When you watch film on certain QB's. They tend to leave a clean pocket, but you rarely see that with Pickett. In fact, he has a very bad habit of staying in the pocket until it's too late. He can make those plays, but sometimes it is too late.
Pickett is not this gifted athlete like other QB's in this class. He ranks fairly low in this category for me. His IQ when to turn from a pocket pass to a mobile QB is why he can come off as a gifted athlete.
Let's talk about his most popular play. The fake slide. Take a look at it and then we can break some things down!
First of all, if he tries that fake slide again, he will either get hit or tear an ACL. He needs to get that out of his toolbox ASAP! His speed is pretty subpar, but finding the hole was the key to the big gain. He does not rely on his legs but uses them to get the first down. Even when you think he is going to run, he makes the throw on the run.
The idea that you really do not know if he will throw or run, is a huge asset for his draft stock. If a defense cheats up because they think he will run, he makes the long throw on the run. Or you playback and he runs for a first down.
Here is a great example. The pocket collapses on him and there are no open receivers. The Clemson defenders know he can still make the throw and they playback. This helps him get a huge gain and an inch closer to the endzone.
There are some great QB's who rely on their legs. Those kinds of players always scare me. Lamar Jackson is a phenomenal QB, but one bad leg injury and his career are done. I love how Pickett uses a mix of his legs and arm to find success. He does not rely on either one.
When you compare the journey of Pickett, the easy comparison is Joe Burrow. An untalked-about QB and then a big senior year helps their draft stock skyrocket. They both have some similarities in their style of play. Both had strong arms and good mobility.
However, I am taking this comparison one step further. I am going with Las Vegas QB Derek Carr as the best comparison for Kenny Pickett. When comparing sizes they are almost identical. 6'3" and 220 lbs (give or take a few.) Carr does have the edge in arm strength, but they both have similar ways of winning the game in the end.
When you compare the mobility part of each player's game, you can't spot the difference. Who do you see Kenny Pickett or Derek Carr? It is like the color of the dress blue/black or white/gold??
Kenny Pickett is not QB1 in this class and he is not even QB2. I love Pickett right now as QB3 right behind Sam Howell from UNC and Matt Corral from Ole Miss. This article was meant to talk about the Rise of Kenny Pickett. He has done such that. He was on no one's radar heading into this season. He was not even listed on the pre-season Heisman rankings.
The fact that he went from a nobody to a first-round pick is phenomenal. He has the tools to be QB1 in this class, but he still has a lot more to grow. I love the idea that he sits for a year or two. There are plenty of teams with aging veteran QBs. If he were to sit and mature as a QB, he can be a very good QB in this league.