With the conclusion of the NFL Draft over the weekend, the 2020 Pitt football is now officially in the books and it’s now onto the 2021 season, which opens up on September 4 at Heinz Field against UMass.
Pat Narduzzi’s roster will once again be competitive in the ACC and like last season, will have a number of players that have the chance to get their names called in the NFL Draft.
It was pretty clear last year that Pitt would have a number of players drafted and it was just a matter of what round, which turned out to be the case with six players getting drafted: Patrick Jones, Rashad Weaver, Jason Pinnock, Jaylen Twyman, Damar Hamlin and Jimmy Morrissey.
While the Panthers roster will be filled with guys that have the potential to get drafted, whether that happens won’t be as certain as it was this year and a lot will depend on health and the tape they’re able to put out for NFL scouts. Another thing to keep in mind when looking ahead to Pitt’s NFL Draft prospects is which player will want to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility they gained this year and return for another season of college competition.
PITT’S TOP FIVE 2022 NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS:
Kenny Pickett – Looking over Pitt’s 2021 roster, no doubt, that Pickett will be their top NFL Draft prospect. The senior quarterback decided to return to college for one more season and will look to build upon his solid play from a year ago. With another season in Mark Whipple’s offense and all of his skill position players returning, plus the addition of Lucas Krull, Pickett has the opportunity to have the best season of his college career. Pickett has the size and athletic ability but will want to show NFL teams that he’s more accurate with his passes down the field.
Lucas Krull – Pitt fans have been hearing about the ability of Krull ever since he arrived at Pitt as a graduate transfer from Florida. Following a strong spring performance in 2020, Krull injured his knee after the first game and missed the remainder of the season. The 6-foot-6, 255 pound physical specimen returned and looks to be picking up where he left off last year. Krull has received some high praise from his coaches following spring workouts. “He’s playing like first-round material right now — knock on wood,” said Pat Narduzzi. Panthers wide receivers coach Brennan Marion added to what his boss had to say. “Seen some great tight ends in my day. This guy [Lucas Krull] is next! Physical capturing the edge, can run all the routes with speed! Great hands, not to mention [he’s] 6-foot-6”, 255. The best is yet to come!,” said Marion. With Pickett throwing him passes, Pitt fans may finally have the tight end they’ve been wanting and someone they could be watching on Sunday’s in the NFL.
John Morgan – Pitt had two defensive end drafted this weekend, will Morgan be the next member of Charlie Partridge’s unit to get selected? The only thing that likely kept Morgan from having a breakout 2020 season was the amount of talent that was ahead of him on the depth chart. This year that won’t be the case as he’ll move up as one of Pitt’s two starting defensive ends. Considering the amount of talent returning and with Pitt’s attack style defense, look for Morgan to have a big 2021 season and make himself a known commodity for NFL franchises.
Cam Bright – The senior linebacker from Alabama had the best season of his college career in 2020, as he started nine games, collecting 53 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. PSN’s Pitt beat reporter Alan Saunders has this evaluation of Bright. “Bright has elite coverage ability for a linebacker and that’s what every NFL team is looking for. Pitt stays in base defense against all kinds of formations, so he has a ton of coverage film against running backs, flexed-out tight ends, and even slot wide receivers. He’ll be a three-year starter and has been a solid contributor on special teams.
Damarri Mathis – Pitt has had cornerbacks selected in the NFL Draft in consecutive seasons (Dane Jackson and Jason Pinnock) and Mathis could run that streak to three. The 5-foot-11 native of Lakeland, Florida missed the entire 2020 season due to a preseason knee injury but will return to be the leader of Archie Collins’ secondary. As a junior, Mathis started 10 games and registered 23 tackles, 11 pass breakups and two interceptions. Saunders has watched Mathis for his entire Pitt career and has this evaluation of him. “Mathis’ ability to successfully return from missing 2020 with an off-the field injury will be key, but if he does, he’ll be a lock to be drafted. He has shown the ability to get his hands on the ball, and Pitt’s scheme demands ability to play press coverage. Mathis should make it three seasons in a row with a Pitt corner going in the draft.”
Others To Watch: DT Keyshon Camp, OG Marcus Minor, LT Carter Warren, DE Deslin Alexandre, LB Phil Campbell, WR Taysir Mack