In our Scouting Reports, we will give you a quick debrief to get you the information you need to know. We’ll also take it a step further and provide an in-depth review showing off examples of what we like, and what we don’t. Included is a date from the initial scouting report, this is so new notes can be added as the year goes on. Those new notes will be dated as well. With that, welcome to the Kenny Pickett scouting report!
Pickett, a fifth-year senior, exploded up quarterback rankings this year as he put together his best season statistically in leading the Pittsburgh Panthers to an ACC Championship. How’d he do it? Let’s take a look.
Details: Kenny Pickett | QB | Pittsburgh #8
DOB: 06.06.1998 | 23 years old
H/W: 6’3” | 220 lbs
|Year||Completions||Attempts||Comp %||Yards||TD||INT||Rush Attempts||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
NFL Draft Projection:
1st round pick – Kenny Pickett is the top ranked QB by both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay to start 2022, and for good reason. Pickett turned in a huge senior campaign for Pittsburgh. He’s shown great mechanics and athleticism, though doesn’t have as strong an arm as many in the class. I wouldn’t fault a team for taking him in the top half of the 1st. I also wouldn’t be surprised if – like Bridgewater in 2014 – he falls to the back half as teams may favor the less refined, but higher potential of other QBs in this class.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – 1QB:
Mid 2nd – Early 3rd round pick – Pickett has shown good athletic ability along with confidence in his legs at opportune moments. He won’t be a “rushing” QB, but should be able to pick up a few extra points-per-game with his legs. His draft capital alone should keep him in the 2nd or 3rd round.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – Superflex/2QB:
Top 6 pick – Draft capital will likely push Pickett to go early 1st, maybe even 1.01 for Pitt homers or fans of the team who drafts him. More likely, he’ll be one of the top QBs taken – in SF/2QB this is likely top 6.
Pickett has great foundations, including strong footwork and solid upper-body mechanics getting great torque. So when I see a relatively average arm, I’m a bit concerned for his ceiling.
His arm strength is serviceable for the NFL, but nowhere near as gifted as many in this class. In the short-to-intermediate areas he has excellent ball placement. Any deeper and it starts to get questionable.
Balls thrown over 30 yards through the air would often float. On mid-level throws to the sidelines, like the coveted 12-yard-out route, the ball hangs in the air longer than I’m comfortable seeing.
Pickett countered this with elite anticipation, and an outstanding ability to hit the top of his drop and fire with great timing. This was often made to look easy by solid pre and post-snap reads.
Pickett was afforded great protection from his offensive line more often than not. When they didn’t hold up he would look uncomfortable, even in a clean pocket, leading him to bail unnecessarily early.
Thankfully, he’s shown good athleticism when he does take off. He isn’t the running quarterback that some in this class are, though he’s confident in his legs and picks the right time to use them. He throws a good ball from on the run as well.
Pickett is an outstanding quarterback for the classic passing schemes. In a system which spreads horizontally and relies on short and mid-level timing routes instead of outside verticals, he could shine.
Pickett is highly consistent mechanically. He regularly shows good, quiet feet as he transitions through his reads. He maintains his base well and typically drives into the throw well, getting the momentum going forward starting with his feet.
Further, Pickett is a consistently solid torque thrower; ie. his leg drive helps to whip his hips through the throw with the arm following naturally. His upper and lower half are synced up incredibly well, giving him a natural and effortless throwing motion.
This consistency in mechanics allows for consistency in his throws too. Ball placement especially is the biggest benefactor here – and Pickett has excellent ball placement in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Typically, velocity would be a benefactor as well.
Here, Pickett lines up behind an unbalanced line, and takes a quarter-roll right on his drop. He aims his feet towards the intended target, drives hard off his back foot, whips his hips through the throw and fires off a good ball.
Given that Pickett throws with consistently good technique, it means he likely showed us this year how much “oomph” he can muster into his throws. It’s here that I have my first concern.
Notice in the last section I said, “Typically, velocity would be a benefactor [of good mechanics]”. Well if this is what he tops out at, color me disappointed. While he regularly throws a solid ball, his arm just doesn’t have a ton of juice typically expected of QBs on Sundays.
The last throw was a good example of what he generally brings from a velocity standpoint. It’s OK, probably above average for a CFB program, but he’s certainly not throwing fireballs in the same way that other high-level QB prospects have.
This next throw is another example. It’s a great throw, don’t get me wrong. Great post-snap vision to confirm man coverage (the DBs back is turned), excellent anticipation to throw to the back shoulder, and good ball placement…but the way the ball floats to the sideline scares me against top NFL competition.
This was a common theme while watching Pickett. Not only did his arm seem limited from a velocity perspective, but he was at his worst when throwing over 25 air yards.
This one shows a bit of both. In a tight game against Virginia, clock winding down, and a must-convert third down, Pickett throws a should-be interception here. It’s not picked off solely because of Pitt’s amazing top receiver, Jordan Addison (WR #3), but it shows the potential danger Pickett’s limitations bring.
Pickett rolls to his right off play action, seemingly looking to one of two routes down the sideline. I’m not the biggest fan of this play call considering there are really only two viable routes (ignoring the far throw up the backside seam), but that’s not really the point.
Darrius Bratton (CB #8), the defensive back matched up with Addison, ends up falling down on the route. It almost literally doesn’t get easier than this throw…just get enough depth on it and lead it away from the DB. That doesn’t happen.
Instead, Pickett floats this ball much too short and – somehow – behind Addison. This practically gift-wrapped an interception for the DB, who was obviously able to catch up.
Thankfully, Addison had other plans.
The best way to compensate for a lack of raw arm talent is to make it up with an understanding of both the offense and defense, getting extremely good at timing throws, and heavy reliance on anticipation. These skills are hard to develop, and a bit rare to see from college QBs.
In our next clip, we’re going to see Pickett nail all of those traits, especially anticipation. He starts this throw when the receiver is still two full steps, and two full yards away from the break point. By the time the receiver turns around, the ball is already halfway there.
This throw, while it’s not likely to be on many highlight reels, is an outstanding throw; it has to be in order to make up for what he lacks in pure arm talent.
This is good news for Pickett. Throws timed this well work at any level.
Another trait mentioned above, timing throws, is a trait Pickett has developed quite nicely. His ability to hit the top of his drop and fire without hesitation is unparalleled in this draft class.
It’s this simple pitch-and-catch style football where Pickett is at his best. The throw below itself isn’t anything special, but it’s a great example of how he can be successful at the next level.
On this play we see a Cover-3 look pre-snap with a blitz coming from a linebacker in the slot. The blitz vacates a potential middle hook zone, which Pickett sees, and fires into the vacated area to convert.
These types of plays are squarely in Pickett’s wheelhouse, and he makes it look easy.
Not that he needed to do much, considering how good his offensive line played…but we can add pocket navigation as another trait on the “plus” side. Pickett is constantly working his way to the center of the pocket with subtle moves – while maintaining his base – to give himself time and maximize space.
Here we see a flood concept; the offense has three routes run to the same side of the field, each at different depths (shallow, mid, deep). This is an excellent Cover-3 beater, as the mid-level route is typically splitting the defense and getting open.
This is a particularly long developing flood concept, as the TE chips before releasing into his drag route, and Addison (WR #3) runs a deep cross designed to get behind the backers, but forces him to travel a long distance to get there.
Pickett sees how the pocket is forming, stays cushy in the middle of it, finds Addison open and feathers it in nicely behind the defenders. Nice navigation, good footwork, and excellent touch.
He didn’t have to showcase pinpoint precision accuracy on this throw, considering how much open space Addison has surrounding him. With that said, Pickett could have placed this ball ~5 yards further.
Since we’re getting into Pickett’s positive traits, I will note that Pickett is generally a pretty good passer when on the move. Like when he’s in the pocket, he’s very accurate on short and intermediate routes…and like in the pocket, he’s inconsistent on throws the deeper they go.
Mechanically, he’s okay – mostly good but a couple little things which could help him on these throws.
Pickett often doesn’t get his momentum going forward, which seems to make it harder to get his front shoulder pointed at the target. Along with this, he tends to open his shoulders early, so he can’t get his maximum hip turn (aka torque) into the throw.
The result is a weaker throw than what he could potentially bring to the table. He doesn’t get his lower body integrated into these throws nearly as well as when he can plant and drive, so it’s really just an arm throw.
These issues aside, there were a number of nice throws to choose from when putting this report together. This stood out above all others for the truly phenomenal ball placement, and a good representation of what can be cleaned up.
Pickett isn’t only a threat to throw when on the move. He may not have elite long speed, and certainly won’t juke defenders out of their shoes, but he’s got just enough juice to be a threat on the ground as well.
Beyond just athleticism, Pickett is a gamer. I saw multiple instances where Pickett would throw his body into harms way to convert a crucial 3rd down. Our next clip is just one instance.
It’s 3rd and 7 for Pickett late in the Clemson game. Pitt is up by two scores, but a punt from inside their own 35 could be a huge momentum shift for this crucial game.
Clemson’s defensive coordinator clearly did their homework, because they had this play locked down from the start. Double coverage on the deep routes, and the short crosser locked down. They even put a spy on Pickett, but left without options, he takes off.
It’s a long run to get seven yards, so we get a good look at his long speed. To be frank, it’s nothing special; not great, but good. He’s clearly not a statue, and he had the goods to convert this even with a spy in place.
Pickett also shows good vision of the pocket, and navigates well based on how it forms. In all fairness, it often wasn’t hard to to given Pitt’s outstanding offensive line unit.
On this next play, the line gets pushed around a bit, but still holds their own. The center gets pushed straight back four yards before standing up his guy. Meanwhile, the right side of the line rides their defenders to the outside.
Pickett is smart to step up given the movement. Once he turns into a runner, he’s got two lanes, one on either side of his center. He looks to the left but immediately spots the lurking defender with easy access to him. Turning right, he finds an escape lane.
From here, Pickett turns on the jets. He’s able to beat out a few defenders in the vicinity, and beats the angle of the safety too as he runs this in for the touchdown. Great play here.
Pickett is obviously confident in his legs…maybe overconfident. Multiple times (five times in four games, to be specific) I watched Pickett break a perfectly clean pocket FAR too early trying to make plays with his legs.
This next play is an excellent example of what I’d see. The pass rush is very active, but nothing his line couldn’t handle easily. Each of them locked up their guy or rode them out of the play.
I don’t get it. It’s not man coverage, this wasn’t a [really] delayed draw, and there wasn’t any open grass in front of him. I can only guess, but it seems to me that Pickett’s vision sees the aggressive pass rush, and with the confidence in his legs, he just jumps the gun unnecessarily.
It’s clearly a poor decision. Further, it happened often enough to be right on the border of “skittish”…but not enough to say he’s scared in the pocket.
Here’s another example. This time, we again see Pickett bail from a clean pocket, though keeps his eyes downfield this time looking to throw.
He’s got 3-on-2 up front, and it seems his initial read(s) are locked up, so it appears he goes to use his legs. Going frame-by-frame helps, but it seems to me there’s a moment of panic.
Pickett shoots to his left thinking there’s a running lane, but sees the edge rusher working his way back to close it up. He finds a lane to his right, gets his eyes back downfield when he’s clear of the pocket, and tries to needle a really tough throw into a really tight window.
The throw wasn’t even bad, it was just late. Pickett is late on the throw because of the time he took escaping a clean pocket. This limited his options [unnecessarily], which resulted in an incompletion.
Pickett has three flaws as I see it:
- First – as shown earlier – his arm strength is not the greatest.
- Second – as seen above – his skittish nature in the face of an aggressive rush.
- Third – shown next – his deep ball is highly inconsistent when compared to the rest of his body of work.
Here we’ll see a throw where he doesn’t quite set his feet, tosses it ~46 air yards, and the ball is easily 5 yards short. Addison (WR #3) is able to throttle back, turn, and catch this ball for a great gain, however if Pickett hits him in stride this is potentially a 72 yard touchdown.
Another deep ball, this one is terrible.
This game against Virginia was tight until the end. Here, just before half, there’s enough time on the clock with a couple smart plays and a timeout to get at least three more points before the clock hits zeros. In a tight game like this, those points are precious.
For some reason, Pickett feels the need to push the ball downfield here. He feels the pressure, misses an underneath crosser with loads of grass available, and throws up this insanity instead.
There weren’t a lot of throws or decisions that really made me cringe, but this one really hit me. A really poor decision and a really poor throw at an opportunity to score and hit halftime with momentum…this was just a gut-shot and it was 100% on Pickett.
Alrighty, I can’t end on that. Pickett is a really good QB, so let’s look at some really good throws. And put simply, this next one is an amazing throw.
We see Pickett drop a beautifully placed ~52 yard throw absolutely perfectly to Addison in stride. It’s incredible seeing a throw like this immediately after seeing our last clip.
His footwork isn’t perfect. His base, leg drive, transition, and upper body are all stellar though, and it shows in the depth and placement. This is as good as it gets from Pickett going deep.
It’s not a 64 yard bomb like we’ve seen from other prospects, but if Pickett is my team’s QB I’m very happy with this.
We’ll end on one more good, clean deep ball. I’m ending on this one because it has everything that Pickett brings to the table as a thrower, all in one clip.
We’ve got Pitt going for it on fourth down, shortly before halftime, in a tie game with Clemson. Pickett shows great post-snap vision to see there is no deep safety. He sticks his cleats in the ground at the top of his drop, and fires a great ball to score.
One of the most surprising things I noticed while putting together this report, is actually an element that I didn’t see. I didn’t track any throws outside the numbers beyond 20 yards, except when Pickett was rolling to that side of the field. None while he was in the pocket.
There were a number of nice anticipation/timing throws, a handful of deep throws, and the aforementioned throws outside the numbers while rolling out… but zero outside verticals (go/fade/corner).
Knowing that his arm may be slightly limited, Pickett is still an excellent quarterback. Phenomenal foundational mechanics allow for outstanding ball placement on short-to-mid level throws. Good touch has him layering it to the intermediate area in relative safety. And his legs help to keep plays alive, sometimes even creating plays.
Just don’t expect Pickett to be dropping deep dimes with regularity.
His landing spot in the draft will almost assuredly be the biggest key to his success. Plug him in a traditional, horizontally stretched west coast offense and he has the potential to be very successful in time.
Are you a Kenny Pickett fan? Many see him as the best QB in the class, do you agree? Drop a comment in the comment box below to let us know your thoughts!
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That guy who wraps up the #1 seed by week 13, dominates the points scored column, and gets blown out by the #8 seed in the first round of playoffs…annually. That’s Ben.
He’s also the guy who constructs a trade calculator for fun, and builds a fantasy football website when he wants to share his thoughts with the world.
As a Vikings fan and a poor golfer, Ben lives in a perpetual state of frustration. In his fun-time he’s a husband and proud father of two.