Pickett's Rookie Year in Context, Part II

To sum up Part One, Pickett's rookie season stats actually compare pretty favorably overall to recent successful QB's. A low INT%, high completion percentage, and (surprisingly) a low yards per completion average all correspond generally to success. The biggest area of concern is probably that Pickett's overall production was not good; he needs to prove he can be the guy rather than just chipping in a few yards here and there.

So there's one other comparison I wanted to make, but it may get a bit lengthy and the first part was already too long. As I mentioned in part one, there's really no point in comparing Pickett to a QB like Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson that is more of a developmental prospect. How does Pickett compare to similar rookie QB's?

Mac Jones

17gs - 67.6% comp - 7.3 yds/attempt - 10.8 y/comp - 2.5% INT - 92.5 rating - 224 yds/g

Daniel Jones

12 gs - 61.9% comp - 6.6 yds/att - 10.7 y/comp - 2.6 INT% - 87.7 rating - 233 yds/g

T. Tagovailoa

9gs - 64.1% comp - 6.3 yds/attempt - 9.8 y/comp - 1.7% INT - 87.1 rating - 181 yds/g

Kenny Pickett

12 gs - 63.0% comp - 6.2 yds/att - 9.8 y/comp - 2.3% INT - 76.7 rating - 185 yds/game

Mac Jones is similar size, similar draft position, similar athletic ability, came from a pro style program, and started as a rookie in a sheltered environment where his head coach didn't ask him to be The Guy, right away. Unfortunately, it's still too early in Jones' career to tell how he turned out. He regressed in his second year but that can easily be attributable to having a defensive guru as his offensive coordinator, frequently getting into explosive arguments with his QB coach as well. Pickett fell short of Mac Jones' production as a rookie, and as a similar player you could call that not living up to expectations. However, Pickett should have a better environment in his second year to grow as a player and can be expected to improve enough to have a better second year than Jones. That's not saying a lot, but it's something.

Daniel Jones had a similar profile as Pickett coming out of college too, technically polished, good but not great athleticism, plagued by poor WR play in college, seen as more of a game manager than an elite franchise QB. As a rookie he played a little bigger role in his team's offense than Pickett, but was less efficient in it. Over the next several seasons he incrementally raised his completion percentage and lowered his interception rate, but was still seen as fringe starter until breaking out in his 4th year. 3,200 yards and 15 TD's still isn't exactly setting the world on fire, but completing 67% of your passes with an INT rate of just 1.1% makes it easy on your defense and run game, and it doesn't hurt when you get 700 rush yards and 7 rush TD's from your QB too. Jones taking off an running twice as often as he has in the past may actually be the key to his improvement this year.

If Pickett follows a similar trajectory as D. Jones, he could be expected to be slightly better next year. What may give him a leg up is if he is given better weapons than Darius Slayton, Kenny Golladay, Evan Engram, and a perpetually injured Sterling Shepard. I'm not sure the Steelers have that now, but could add a really good slot receiver this offseason. Unleashing Pickett as a runner more often could also help.

Tua Tagovailoa statistically was the most similar to Pickett as a rookie. Coming out of college he fit a similar mold of leadership, good mechanics, field vision, and good but not great overall athleticism. His rookie season was, again, statistically very similar to Pickett. Tua's second season saw a significant improvement in completion percentage and yards per game, but his INT% went up, possibly just due to luck fluctuations (which are significant in INT's) after having a surprisingly low number of INT's as a rookie. In his 3rd year, Tagovailoa brought his INT% back down to 2.0% but also regressed to nearly his rookie level in completion percentage. His yards per game and TD's went up dramatically however, probably due to the presence of Tyreek Hill at WR and the continued development possibly of 6th overall pick Jaylen Waddle in his 2nd year. Unfortunately, Tagovailoa continues to be plagued by injury, with limits his total impact and may at this point be having a cumulative impact on his ability to play even when healthy.

Based on Tagovailoa's career trajectory, it seems like Pickett may be poised to improve slightly next year, but surrounding him with talent could be key to getting the most out of him. The Dolphins seem to have recognized that Tua doesn't have the lethal arm of Mahomes or the lethal mind of Burrow to single-handedly make your offense dangerous, but he does have the ability to get the ball to dangerous receivers and let them do their thing. Given Tua's fragility, letting him run more, like Daniel Jones, wasn't a good idea, so they invested in elite WR's. Pickett was concussed twice this season, which could make them shy of running him more, and they love to spend 2nd round picks on WR's anyway, so feel free to pencil in the best available slot man as the Steelers' 2nd or 3rd pick this year. That's not exactly on a par with bringing in Tyreek Hill or drafting Waddle 6th overall, but every little bit helps.

Overall, when you look at the success of similar players to Pickett in the past few years, I think Pickett seems more or less on track. I don't expect a big breakout season next year with 5,000 passing yards or something like that, but I would foresee modest improvements across the board, maybe something like 3,400 yards, 15 TD's, 7 INT, and another 250 yards and 3 TD's on the ground, assuming he plays the whole season and Matt Canada calls a similar offense.

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