In the post-Combine wave of mock drafts released Tuesday, NFL.com’s Larry Zierlein has come out with his second prediction of what will happen in the first round of April’s draft. In his first mock, he had the Steelers trading up to take Liberty QB Malik Willis. In his second mock, he has the team making the same trade, but for a different QB.
Here, he has the Steelers moving up from #20 to #17 in a deal with the Los Angeles Chargers to select Pitt QB Kenny Pickett. Of the trade and selection, Zierlein writes:
“For the second mock draft in a row, I’m having the Steelers swap spots with the Chargers; only this time, Kevin Colbert grabs a quarterback who might be able to start right away for a win-now team.”
In this edition, Willis is long gone by the time pick #17 comes around. He has Willis being taken ninth overall by the Denver Broncos, a QB-needy team who just lost out on the chance to acquire Aaron Rodgers.
Pickett and Willis have been the two quarterbacks most often mocked to the Steelers this year, though it’s questionable if even will make it to pick #20, hence the trade including in this mock. Pickett is someone the Steelers know better than anyone, a Pitt product who said he had long conversations with Mike Tomlin at their shared facility. Pickett isn’t regarded as having the highest upside in this class but is considered to be the most NFL-ready of the group, coming from a pro-style offense and coach by Mark Whipple, who worked for the Steelers and served as Ben Roethlisberger’s first NFL QBs coach.
Pickett was the top quarterback in our recent red zone study conducted by Clayton Eckert, who concluded:
“Pickett lands at the top as I expected learning from the data, with the top rank in points earned and third ranked EPA/att. Strong ranks second in points earned and tied for fifth in EPA/att, faring well in the data overall. While he was not pressured much, he had good accuracy, a higher touchdown percentage with no interceptions or many sacks. Both men had higher sample sizes which is encouraging, and it will be interesting to see if they can carry over this success against NFL defenses.”
If Pittsburgh is going to draft a quarterback, it figures to be one of Willis or Pickett. Moving up three spots to #17 won’t drain their draft capital, either.
Elsewhere in Zierlein’s mock, he has NC State Ickey Ekwonu going #1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Off an impressive Combine workout, Travon Walker bumps all the way up to #3, while Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning cracks the top five. Center Tyler Linderbaum and guard Zion Johnson go back-to-back with picks #26 and #27 to the Titans and Buccaneers, respectively.
Check out our player profile on Pickett below.