Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft is officially in the books and there were a lot of things we expected to see happen and some, well, less-than-expected selections made. There was a lot more of the latter. Only one quarterback was taken off the board from what’s been passed off as a “weak” class by a host of analysts, despite the high-end backup potential and potential starting potential some of these signal-callers have flashed throughout their college careers and the pre-draft process. Here’s a look into Kenny Pickett, the lone passer taken within the first 32 picks, and how he fits in with his new team:
Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 20: Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
We thought we knew either the Detroit Lions or the Carolina Panthers would be the ones to select a quarterback first, but it was neither as the Lions went in the direction of edge rusher by selecting Aidan Hutchinson out of Michigan and the Panthers opted for an offensive tackle in Ikem Ekwonu of NC State.
Instead, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers who made the decision to keep Kenny Pickett in the same city in which he began his career by taking him at No. 20 overall. This is a reflection of Pittsburgh choosing the ceiling over the floor by taking arguably the most pro-ready quarterback available. Pickett projects as at least a high-end backup, above average in every aspect of playing the position while also showing some Joe Burrow-like flashes throughout his college career.
Pittsburgh has utilized a pocket passer in recent history with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers now gain a quarterback who has shown a high rate of overall accuracy, the ability to push the ball downfield, make quick decisions and go through his progressions efficiently. As has been previously stated, he’s a low-risk prospect and that shows in the tape. Plus, he brings what may still be a slightly underrated sense of mobility that is reminiscent of what Burrow showed at LSU (and let’s not forget about Pickett inventing the fake slide that caught national attention).
Being the first quarterback off the board is the perfect finishing touch to Pickett’s collegiate career in which he completed 67.2% of his passes for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on 497 attempts. Looking at the tape, it’s obvious Pickett’s rise was not a product of the system of players around him, but rather his own improvement.
The Steelers will look to translate that momentum to the NFL and it won’t be much of a jump for Pickett, who operated the Panthers’ pro-style offense at maximum efficiency. He won’t have a tremendously large learning curve.