Kenny Pickett’s rise to stardom has not only put his life under the microscope as he transitions to the NFL, but it’s given hope to some fans that he might be a franchise savior and others that simply hope their team will not spend a first-round selection on him.
While Pickett’s draft spot is anything but secure, Mike Farrell, the long-time National Recruiting Director at Rivals, feels like Pickett will be a first rounder — he just won’t be on either end of the extreme when it comes to first round picks.
“I don’t think anybody thinks Kenny Pickett is a franchise guy, and I don’t think anyone thinks he’s a career backup either,” Farrell told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I think he’s a Drew Lock at worst and a Kirk Cousins at best. He’s in that range.”
With the volatility of fellow top quarterback Malik Willis, Farrell comparing Willis’ range between Lamar Jackson and Akili Smith, Pickett’s solidarity and NFL readiness could be a selling point for NFL teams looking for a quick fix in this year’s class.
“(Pickett is) the most NFL ready quarterback, Malik Willis is still very raw, doesn’t read defenses that well, and Kenny Pickett was a quarterback at Pitt for, what, 15 years? He’s definitely a guy that’s got a lot of experience, he’s a mature quarterback, he’s not Mac Jones but he’s similar,” Farrell said.
While Farrell doesn’t think Pickett is going to be a program changer, not someone who wins multiple Super Bowls or leads teams back from major fourth quarter deficits, he does see the similarities between guys like Cousins and Jones.
In looking at the Pickett-Jones connection, Farrell saw two guys who stuck it out at one school, put together incredible campaigns in their final college season and just got better and better throughout their time at the college level. However, they’re both field managers. And while Pickett won’t land with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, Farrell pointed to another franchise with a history of stability as his best landing.
“The Steelers would be the best fit for him because he’s comfortable, the fans would rally around him, really like to see him there — I don’t think anyone’s too thrilled about Trubisky,” Farrell said. “I think the Steelers being a team picking 20th, that was a playoff-caliber team without a quarterback last year — because Roethlisberger was horrible — would probably be the best for him success-wise.”
With links to the Carolina Panthers, who hold the sixth pick in the first round, but also teams like the New Orleans Saints and Steelers, Pickett’s destination is cloudy. But Farrell wouldn’t select Pickett in the Top 10, even if it’s only just because you’d be putting himself in a bad position simply because you could trade back and still land him.
All it takes is for one team to have fallen in love with Pickett to pull the trigger on either picking him early, trading up for him or ending a potential slide. And by all accounts, Farrell does believe Pickett will be a solid starter.
“Pickett could certainly go in Round 1 and is most likely to go in Round 1, but everybody I’ve talked to from an NFL perspective says he’s a guy, not a difference-maker,” Farrell said. “So, he’s a solid starter and you have to put pieces around him to be successful.”
And with pieces around him at Pitt, Pickett showed out with a season of 4,319 yards and 49 total touchdowns on the way to historic individual and team success. Pickett won’t have any choice of where he goes in the draft, but he’ll look to make the best of it.
The 2022 NFL Draft begins tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The event is taking place at the Las Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, but Pickett will not be in attendance.