CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 04: Kenny Pickett #8 of the Pittsburgh Panthers attempts a pass against the Wake Forest defense during the second half of the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 04, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

By Dylan MacKinnon

Like it or not, QB will be a constant point of debate this off-season. It is very possible the Eagles run it back with Jalen Hurts. There are many fans who want that to happen. And as we talked about earlier in the week, there are good arguments to do just that. There are also good arguments for finding a replacement though. And we all know Howie Roseman. Even though he said Hurts is the starter, he only meant right now. Until it is week 1 and Hurts is still the starter, there is going to be a chance the Eagles make a change at QB. And while that very well could be through a trade for Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, or Derek Carr, it could also be through the draft.

With that said, its important that we know who the QBs in this draft are, in case they end up an Eagle. There is a narrative that this year “has no good QBs,” but is that true? Let’s start by looking at who may be the most promising of those names. Kenny Pickett, out of Pitt. He, along with Liberty’s Malik Willis, is someone we know for a fact Howie Roseman is at least intrigued by, since Howie personally attended Pitt vs Liberty in the Fall. So let’s get to know the Pitt QB a bit better.

Meteoric Rise to Heisman Finalist

Pickett was not the biggest name to most college football fans before this last season. Scouts knew about him, but the rest us would be forgiven for over looking a guy who had only 26 combined TDs, to go with 16 interceptions the past two years. Much like Joe Burrow before him, he made a name for himself in his final year at college. In one season he surpassed his career TD total from his past 3 years as a starter. He threw for 42tds, and only 7 interceptions. On top of that he rushed for 5 TDs. All of this was enough to make him a Heisman finalist. He did not win, with Bryce Young taking home the hardware, but the season was impressive none the less.

So the question becomes. Was this a one year flash in the pan, or was it his traits finally carrying over into on the field success? Lets take a look at just what those traits he has are. For one, his arm is impressive. He was extremely efficient this year throwing the ball deep. His completion rate on passes over 20 yards eclipsed 65%. And he did some serious damage when throwing deep as well.

The key to his success on deep balls is the velocity his arm generates. And that is very much thanks to good arm mechanics. His motion is both consistent and efficient. Which translates to him not only getting the length he needs on his deep ball, but also being able to fit the ball through tight windows.

He can also produce power on his throws when he is not able to step into the pass. Multiple times pressure forced him to throw off a back foot. And where as for many QBs that would result in a poorly thrown lofted ball ripe to be picked off, he managed to still get zip on it. Then when he is allowed to stand tall in the pocket, and can step into passes, he truly excels and plays with the mechanics and poise of a pro.

He also excels when throwing on the run. Pickett is not quite as mobile or dynamic as Jalen Hurts is, but he can move a bit, as we saw earlier in the year in a infamous play where he faked a slide to dodge a tackle and eventually get into the end zone. He has a good feel for pressure and uses his athleticism to keep plays alive.

Where He Needs to Improve

So if he has those traits, why is he not being heralded as the next big thing and slotted for the first overall pick? Well its because there are still some bugs in his game that need to be worked out.

For one, he is perhaps a bit too much of a gunslinger. He has the confidence he can fit a ball in any window, and is not afraid to make difficult throws. And while that can be a good thing, it also occasionally gets him intro trouble. I suppose its better than being afraid to throw it to anyone who is covered, but overall he needs to be a bit smarter when it comes to when to take those risks.

He also has the opposite problem that Jalen Hurts has. Whereas we see Hurts sometimes be too quick to take off and stop looking downfield, Picket often is too slow to do so. It is good to keep your eyes downfield and be looking to make a play with your arm. But sometimes it is just not there, and you need to use your athleticism to make the safer play and gain some yards with your legs. His natural athleticism would lend to him being good at that. But much like a former Eagles QB he struggles to just take the simple play and live to see another down.

There is also the fact he only really has one season where he looked the part of an NFL QB. So there is always the fear this was a flash in the pan. He has the traits to make it work at the next level. But it is unlikely that he is Joe Burrow and will come in and immediately play like a Super Star. He needs to work on his game and improve in some key areas. Pickett is more project than sure thing, but if he lands in the right spot he has the potential to be a star.

Good Mix of Confidence And Hard Work

We learned from Carson Wentz that a QB is more than just his arm talent. You also need to be a guy a team can rally around. You don’t need to be the rah rah leader some others are, but you need to be a leader in some sense, even if its the silent leader type. So where does Pickett fall in that regard? Can he convince teams to rally around him? What kind of person is Kenny Pickett?

Well the one thing you need to know about Pickett is he has a ton of confidence. He knows he is the guy, and he aims to prove it. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he compared himself to Connor McGregor. in the sense that he walks onto the Football Field with the same mind set McGregor would walk into the Octagon with.

“When I walk out on that field, I don’t care what team is out there. I don’t care about the hype, the noise, that all doesn’t matter. When I’m out there, I’m the guy. I’m the right guy for this team, and we’re gonna win the game.” -Kenny Pickett

That type of confidence is great. Many of the greatest players in any given sport had the same mindset. But you cant just be confident. You have to have the drive to back it up. Thankfully, he also has that. Here is what his QB Coach, Tony Racioppi, had to say about Pickett in an interview with Pitt News.

“He’s the perfect blend of confidence but at the same time being humble. He knows he’s really good … he expects to be the No. 1 pick in the [NFL] Draft but at the same time he’s still the humble, hard-working kid that he’s always been.”

Off the field, Pickett appears to have every trait you want in your franchise cornerstone. There is a good reason he is so beloved in his hometown of Ocean Township, NJ. In fact, the people who crossed paths with him there do nothing but sing his praises. His former coach recalled a time when Pickett was just 10, and was already the leadership type. After a play a Wr came back to the huddle and complained to Pickett that he wanted the ball. And Pickett’s response was, ““I have one football. I’m going to throw it to whoever gives us the best chance to score.”

10 years old, and he already had the confidence to do that. And his coach at the time, Donald Klein, said this was not a one off. Klein recalled Pickett consistently being a leader for the team.

“Kenny has the unique ability to motivate those around him in the right way. Whether or not it needs to be an arm around you or a kick in the butt, whatever it is, Kenny is authentic as it comes with who he is and leading groups of people.” – Donald Klein

From what we see here, one thing you will not have to worry about if you take Pickett is that it could hurt your locker room. Eagles fans will be sensitive to that after recent events, but Pickett at least seems to be a great guy. The people back in his hometown sing his praises as someone who, despite the bravado on the field, has humility off it and is grateful for the opportunities he has and for the support he gets.

And just to wrap up the conversation about Pickett being a good guy, here is an amusing story courtesy of this poster on reddit.

What the Draft Experts Say

Ian Cummings- Pro Football Network

“Pickett’s strong off-script profile is one of his most appealing features. But the Pitt QB has a degree of polish, which comes with experience. Pickett has exceptional mechanics in structure. He keeps his feet and shoulders squared toward his target, and he continually resets his base as he goes through his progressions. Pickett’s never idle on his feet, and he navigates the pocket well. He knows how to manipulate throwing lanes with his positioning.

Pickett is poised in the pocket — he stands tall and delivers strikes even amidst contact. He knows to turn his upper body before throwing to generate maximum hip torque, and he consistently steps into his throws to maximize momentum. Additionally, Pickett has a fairly good feel for pressure around the edge, and he’s proactive in evading and extending plays.”

Joe Marino-The Draft Network

“The system he ran didn’t include cheap production in the form of manufactured throws, Pickett simply worked his progressions and dealt all season long in route to a historically good campaign. His process is synched up and coordinated, his upper and lower half are in union, and he does a great job of getting himself aligned to throw the ball with consistency. He navigates the pocket and appears unbothered by chaos around him. When it comes to areas of concern entering the next level, his small hands and reconciling his elite 2021 season against a considerably large sample size of modest play is something to be considered.

Pickett will also turn 24 before the start of his rookie season. While Pickett showcased good ball placement in 2021, there are some misfires and the ball can sail on him. In addition, he is guilty of aggressive decisions both in terms of slotting throws but also in how he navigates the pocket and addresses pressure. If 2021 is an indication of what Pickett can be moving forward, then there is no doubt about his ability to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL.”

Conclusion

Pickett is not the perfect prospect. There are things he will have to work on to truly make it at this level. but what he does have is the skill tree you need to have in a franchise QB.

He is a risky pick for multiple reasons. One because it would mean you are moving on from Jalen Hurts which is a risk. But it also risks spending a first on a QB who may not pan out. The upside is alluring though. The Eagles have a decision to make. Do they think Hurts can be the guy. if that answer is yes, then this would not be the pick. But if they do not think Hurts can improve, and cant make a trade for a veteran QB, Pickett may be a risk worth taking.