Kenny Pickett is an experienced and accomplished quarterback that had a meteoric rise in 2021, elevating his draft stock significantly along the way. A four-year starter, Pickett leaves Pittsburgh as the school’s all-time leading passer and he re-wrote the record books. Pickett brings good size, mobility, accuracy, poise, toughness, and leadership to the table. He is a terrific vertical passer that can work off-script and make things happen with his legs. He has terrific command and confidence running the offense and does a wonderful job of blending an aggressive mentality with consistently working his progressions and generally making good decisions with the football. His ascension as a prospect wasn’t due to a new offensive coaching staff or influx of talent around him. He’s had the same offensive coordinator since 2019 and a modest supporting cast. Pickett’s own improvements as a player and mastery of the system are the reason why he elevated his game. The system he ran didn’t include cheap production in the form of manufactured throws, Pickett simply worked his progressions and dealt all season long en route to a historically good campaign. His process is synched up and coordinated, his upper and lower half are in usion, and he does a great job of getting himself aligned to throw the ball with consistency. He navigates the pockett and appears unbothered by chaos around him. When it comes to areas of concern entering the next level, his small hands and reconciling his elite 2021 season against a considerably large sample size of modest play is something to be considered. Pickett will also turn 24 before the start of his rookie season. While Pickett showcased good ball placement in 2021, there are some misfires and the ball can sail on him. In addition, he is guilty of aggressive decisions both in terms of slotting throws but also in how he navigates the pocket and addresses pressure. If 2021 is an indication of what Pickett can be moving forward, then there is no doubt about his ability to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL. With that said, blending all the layers of the evaluation together makes Pickett an interesting case study.
Ideal Role: Starting quarterback
Scheme Fit: Spread
Written by Joe Marino
Games watched: North Carolina State (2020), Clemson (2020), Virginia Tech (2020), Florida State (2020), Tennessee (2021), Clemson (2021), Virginia (2021), North Carolina (2021), Miami (2021), Duke (2021)
Best Game Studied: Duke (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Clemson (2020)
Accuracy: Pickett’s ball placement improved incrementally throughout his career at Pitt and was terrific in 2021, especially down the field. He does well to place the ball in favorable positions for his receivers to produce yardage after the catch. He isn’t without an occasional misfire (primarily misses high), but the consistency he found putting the ball on his targets in 2021 was a big reason for his ascension.
Decision Making: There’s a lot to like about how Pickett blends an aggressive, gunslinger’s mentality and playing within the rules of the play. He generally picks good spots to take chances and for the most part, goes to the correct place with the football within his progression. With that said, he can be overconfident in both his arm talent and pocket mobility and he isn’t immune to some risky decisions with the football.
Poise: Having been able to see such a large sample size of Pickett that spans several seasons, his growth in terms of command and confidence are tremendous. He’s a fiery competitor that brings notable toughness to the table. He is more than willing to hang in the pocket, face pressure, and battle to keep plays alive. He is extremely accomplished in terms of late-game heroics.
Progressions: One of my favorite components of Pickett’s glow up in 2021 is that it didn’t come with cheap production. Pickett was tasked with being a progression-style passer and he worked them, showcasing good anticipatory skills and the ability to exhaust progressions. His comfort surveying the field and letting it rip is impressive.
Release: It’s impressive how Pickett marries everything together in terms of his upper and lower half, combined with his decision-making and overall sequencing with his process, which leads to a very consistent release. He has multiple clubs in the bag and knows how to use them. He is efficient.
Pocket Manipulation: Pickett has good mobility and movement within the pocket and he’s comfortable navigating while keeping his eyes down the field. He isn’t often guilty of leaving a clean pocket and he almost always looks comfortable with how he negotiates the pocket. Perhaps there are some instances of him being too comfortable in the pocket, but he never appears bothered by chaos around him.
Arm Strength: Pickett won’t be confused as having a rocket launcher attached to right shoulder, but he has good arm strength. He frequently slots the football on outbreaking routes to the field and zips the ball into windows with good velocity. He is a terrific vertical passer that doesn’t have to dig deep to find the juice needed to drive it down the field.
Mobility: Pickett isn’t a “sneaky” good athlete that can work off-script and rip off chunks of yards with his legs, it’s obvious that he’s an athlete when watching him play. Pickett has easy movement skills and twitch that helps him navigate the pocket, but also has the athleticism to work outside of structure and scramble. While he wasn’t often used on designed runs at Pitt, his mobility is a notable strength of his game and he picks his spots well in terms of when to take off with the football on a passing play.
Leadership: Pickett’s command and confidence running the offense is notable. He is the most accomplished quarterback in Pitt history, which includes the likes of Dan Marino and Alex Van Pelt. He has engineered numerous fourth-quarter comebacks and it’s obvious that he’s taken ownership in his growth and maturation as a player.
Mechanics: Pickett does a good job of getting himself aligned to throws, which leads to consistent results. His process is synched up, but he’s also able to speed up his process when necessary and find a quick platform and trigger to get the ball out. There are no glaring concerns when it comes to Pickett’s mechanics.
Prospect Comparison: Joe Burrow (2020 NFL Draft, Cincinnati Bengals)
TDN Consensus: To Be Determined
Joe Marino: 86.00/100 (First Round Value)