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2022 NFL Draft

Farabaugh: Kenny Pickett Good Fit for Steelers; Low Ceiling Could Doom Pick

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Kenny Pickett

The Steelers’ draft stayed right in their backyard as they selected Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett with the No. 20 overall pick on Thursday. It’s a pick that is quite honestly storybook stuff. From the perspective of Pickett, Pitt, and the Steelers, this is story is a really good one. However, that does not always translate to success on the field. In fact, this pick brings a lot of complicated feelings having watched Pickett play for five years at Heinz Field.

Let’s get this out of the way. What is about to be said does not make Pickett a bust in any way. This is a guy who has plenty of good traits. There is some hyperbole going around that he is a career backup and nothing more, but there is more upside to Pickett than that. In fact, his traits as it stands right now, are better than that. Pickett is ready to go now.

Pickett is a pro-ready quarterback. He is smart and processes the field at a high level. That is what makes Pickett a bit of a fun quarterback. His growth in going through his progressions and reading the field as a whole is marvelous. It is what has allowed Pickett to become the safe option in the class.

Still, the thing that is fun about Pickett is that he is a creator first, not a pocket passer first. Pickett’s a really dynamic athlete. By that, it is underrated to the point that people may not realize how athletic he actually is. Pickett can really move and make throws both off-platform, from different arm angles, and rolling both left and right. He has the ability to make things happen when they are not there. That is how Pickett wins.

However, his issues when managing the pocket are going to cost him big time. Pickett does not trust his protection and slides out of the backdoor too early. That can lead him to bad sacks and costly turnovers. Pickett needs to stand in there for a second longer and let the ball rip. There are times he feels pressure that simply is not there and can blow up the structure of the play as a result. Pickett is skittish, and he tries to leave the pocket at the first sign of duress instead of standing in there and moving around the pocket.

Pickett’s physical tools are not all that crazy. He is not going to have a howitzer on his arm. It is just average. That will hold him back to a degree on tight-window throws, but he has surgical accuracy, which is a boon for him. Between the pocket management and only okay arm strength, Pickett could see his ceiling lowered. There is just not much upside left in what he actually has to do.

However, his intangibles are through the roof and Pickett works tirelessly. It is not impossible that he can mature past some of those tendencies in the pocket. The bigger question for Pickett will be if he can manage the pocket just a little bit better to cut down on some of the sacks.

Pickett is a high-floor player. Not only, that he is very safe. Pickett is going to be a starting quarterback in this league. However, is he ever going to be the guy that the Steelers win because of, or is it just a guy they win with? There is a fine line between those guys. Maybe, Pickett becomes one of those guys like Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr that tote that fine line of both of these spectrums. It is not always black and white.

This is not an outright bad pick. Passing on the upside of Malik Willis is a tough blow. It could have been a much worse pick, too. Pickett was SteelersNow’s QB2 in this process. It is just that Pickett’s ceiling is undeniably capped at a certain level. He is never going to be Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or one of those guys. In an AFC and an AFC North with so many great quarterbacks, how much does Pickett move the needle?

The Steelers can make the playoffs with Pickett. They will just have to get over the hump with a loaded AFC that is filled with many elite quarterbacks. That is a lot on the shoulders of Pickett, who will be expected to be everything as the successor to Ben Roethlisberger.

The pick just feels okay at this point. It will be mostly decided by how Pickett can progress. If he gets into the Cousins and Carr tier maybe this is a guy who can be a long-term answer. It was at the 20th overall pick anyways, so if he becomes Derek Carr, it is a win. The Steelers may just have to make a difficult decision in 5 years of whether to pay Pickett or not.

Pickett can be a very solid NFL quarterback. The question will be how good? In a loaded AFC, that is a very important question, and it could make or break this pick.

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