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NFL

2022 NFL Draft: which team could pick Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett?

With several NFL teams in need of fresh blood at quarterback, Kenny Pickett is shaping up as one of the most sought-after players in the 2022 Draft.

Ariel Velázquez
Update:
Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett is in line to be a first-round pick at the 2022 NFL Draft.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the 2022 NFL Draft gets going in the bright lights of Las Vegas on Thursday night, it should be no surprise if Kenny Pickett is one of the first names to be announced. The 23-year-old is being billed as one of the biggest talents that the current crop has to offer at quarterback.

Last year, Pickett passed up the chance to make the step up to the NFL, instead returning to the University of Pittsburgh to add another year to his college career, thanks to the eligibility extension the NCAA granted players in his class because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Related: Remembering Tom Brady’s draft pick

With the Panthers, the New Jersey native made his debut in the final game of the 2017 season. After a year in which he was behind Max Browne and Ben DiNucci in the pecking order, his breakthrough came in a game against the Miami Hurricanes. He completed 18 out of 29 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown, and also showed his running ability, rushing for 60 yards and two TDs.

From that day on, Pickett was a name on the lips of every Panthers fan, and pretty much everyone on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

Pickett close to Heisman Trophy after stunning 2021 season

Pickett made the most of his final year of eligibility, blossoming into one of the top college players in the US. He registered 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns, breaking records for yards and TDs in a single season. He was named on the All-American team and came third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, the award given to the year’s outstanding college player.

Pittsburgh won the ACC Championship and finished up 11-2 in games that Pickett started, as the school registered 11 wins in a season for the first time since 1981, when a team featuring Dan Marino went 11-1.

Pickett ended his college career having thrown for 12,303 yards, 81 touchdowns and 32 interceptions, with a passer rating of 136.3. He also ran for 801 yards and 20 TDs. In his extra year of college eligibility, he gained in maturity and became the kind of star performer that’s a viable first-round Draft pick.

It’s no secret that the NFL scouts analyse a player in minute detail before choosing them as their first pick - and, when it comes to selecting a quarterback, that scrutiny is all the greater. In the history of the Draft, there have been many picks that have proved the wrong decision.

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Pickett’s small hands a big talking point

In Pickett’s cons column, the attribute that has received the most attention is the size of his hands. During the NFL scouting combine, it emerged that Pickett’s hands measure 8 1/2 inches, smaller than any quarterback currently playing in the NFL.

According to USA Today, if Pickett is selected in the first round, he’ll have the smallest hands of any QB picked on the opening day of the Draft since 2003.

Hands aside, many analysts describe Pickett as possessing the ideal physique for an NFL quarterback. He is 6′3″ tall and weighs 220lbs. He has a compact throwing action that’s technically well above average and gives him the kind of range and accuracy needed to keep the ball out of defenders’ hands.

Pittsburgh Steelers eyeing up Pickett

In recent weeks, it has been said repeatedly that the Pittsburgh Steelers will go to Las Vegas in search of a quarterback who they can develop as the new face of their offence, following QB Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement after 19 years with the franchise.

Per ESPN’s Matt Miller, Pickett appears to be the only QB Draft option the Steelers are convinced by. “It might just be a late draft-season smoke screen, but there is a lot of chatter about the Steelers not being sold on quarterbacks other than Pitt’s Kenny Pickett in this class,” Miller says.

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