Draft picks aren’t managed the way they used to be. The old-school philosophy was to sit rookies for at least a year, maybe even two. Teach them the game, allow them to watch, take mental reps before seeing the field. But those days are over and even the Steelers, who held onto that idea longer than just about anyone, have abandoned the notion. Draft picks play year one or else the bust talks kick up.
For Pitt QB Kenny Pickett, he believes he’s Day 1 ready. And in this weaker draft class, he may be the only one.
Pickett spoke with the media during his Wednesday Combine interview and said he can contribute to a team right away.
“Coming from a pro system, I feel like I’ll be able to adapt well into whatever system,” he told reporters earlier today, including our own Jonathan Heitritter. “Hopefully a west coast system is what I came from with Coach [Mark] Whipple. So I think being able to come in and learn an offense quickly and be able to adjust that way. I think it’s number one.”
Pickett is regarded as being one of the more “Day 1” ready quarterbacks in this draft class compared to the likes of Malik Willis, a prospect regarded as being at least a year away from seeing the NFL field. Pickett brings an all-around game and his experience in a more pro-style system gives him a leg up, putting him in the conversation as one of the first QBs selected this April.
It doesn’t hurt he was able to share a facility with a pro team too. As he did at the Senior Bowl, he noted the benefit of working alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Being able to watch them practice during the spring and sometimes in the early summer, I think as a young kid coming to college, it just kind of showed me how to be a professional, show me how to practice the right way. It’s something I always told the young guys coming in to take advantage of and really see how it is to be a pro and how to attack everyday at practice.”
He says his Pitt days have prepared him for his current Combine interviews.
“Having a chance to go through some of these interviews teams will install, plays, right? Erase it. They’ll ask you questions and they’ll go back and tell you to draw it. I feel like I’ve had a pretty good recall with what they throw on the board because of what I’ve done in college.”
Pickett nearly declared after the 2020 season but returned to Pitt for 2021. It was a choice that paid off. He exploded this past year to throw for more than 4,300 yards with 42 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, bumping his completion percentage up six points to over 67% in 2021. The Panthers had one of their best years, winning 11 games. Their only losses weren’t because of Pickett’s play. Pitt’s defense allowed 44 points in a three-point loss to Western Michigan and gave up 38 in a close defeat against Miami (FL). With Coach Whipple leaving before the team’s bowl game, Pickett opted out of playing, and the Panthers fell to Michigan State.
With the Steelers having a glaring need at quarterback and Pickett being in that Round 1 conversation, there’s an obvious connection between the two. Pickett wouldn’t mind staying in the same zip code.
“Like I said before, to play in the city that I played college football in, I think it’d be really special.”
Check out our player profile on Pickett below.