The Steelers had their pick of quarterbacks with the 20th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and they selected Kenny Pickett from the University of Pittsburgh.
Here’s what was being said about him before the draft.
Natalie Miller for USA Today’s Draft Wire
Pickett is an exceptional thrower of the football, possessing great accuracy, touch, and above-average arm strength. He uses these traits in combination with his high football IQ to punish defenses on a consistent basis. . . Pickett uses his high level of athleticism to create and extend plays with his feet, all while keeping his eyes downfield. He routinely took off for chunk plays and long touchdowns using his impressive speed.
While sufficient, Pickett’s arm isn’t elite, which leads one to wonder if he can routinely make top-shelf NFL throws on the boundary. His smaller hands have been much maligned, but not without reason, as he fumbled the ball 38 times during his college career.
His one season of massive production does also run counter to his prior years of mediocre numbers, which could cast doubt as to whether or not he was a flash in the pan more than a prospect who can have sustained success at the next level.
Pickett was one of the top players in the country at a premium position, and he will without a doubt be in the conversation for the first quarterback taken in this year’s draft. He’s got an extremely high floor, and enough experience to play right away.
Nate Tice for Bleacher Report
Good height with above-average bulk for the QB position.
Asked to run a wide variety of concepts and shows a solid understanding of their intent.
Good accuracy at all three levels. Is able to deliver catchable throws even when feet aren’t set.
Most dangerous when he breaks out of the pocket. Willing to attack down the field on unscripted plays. Can punish blitzes doing so.
Inconsistent timing on his throws that isn’t as glaring at the college level due to a stout offensive line. Resorts to scramble drills too often because he ends up late.
Takes unnecessary sacks because he looks to scramble instead of attempting to operate from the pocket.
Notably small hands.
3rd rated QB in the draft.
3rd round projection.
Joe Marino for The Draft Network
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.
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.
Pro Football Focus
Pickett has a natural feel that’s uncoachable in a lot of ways. Whether it’s throwing guys open, understanding receiver leverage, avoiding the rush or keying blitzes, Pickett gets a lot of the little things already.
He has to speed up his process in the league. He’ll work through reads under the assumption he can always buy himself more time. “Ball out” has to be his first thought at the next level instead of “break pocket.”
Between his combination of experience and NFL-translatable skills, Pickett is as ready as any quarterback in the draft class to start out the gate. The question is: How high is his ceiling?
The most NFL ready quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class, Pickett checks a lot of the boxes teams look for in a quarterback.
But the ones he doesn’t check are things like having smaller hands than any NFL quarterback, and questions about his ceiling as a player.
A big factor for me is the Steelers have had ample opportunity to study Pickett during his time at the University of Pittsburgh, by virtue of the Pitt Panthers sharing practice facilities with the Steelers. If that unparalleled access led them to believe he was the #1 quarterback then they made the right choice.