NFL Draft

Peter King’s Final Mock Has Steelers Drafting Kenny Pickett Over Malik Willis

It’s draft week. Which means it’s final mock draft week. Just like me, Peter King released his final 2022 mock draft Monday morning for Pro Football Talk. And it comes with plenty of interesting outcomes. For Pittsburgh’s purpose, King has the Steelers taking a quarterback, the first passer selected in the draft. Having all the top options available to them, King mocked them Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, choosing him over Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and the rest.

King explains why he chose quarterback:

“Upset special: Pickett over Malik Willis—and it’s a gut feeling more than anything else. How cool would it be if the Steelers, who passed on Pitt’s Dan Marino is 1983 when a successor to Terry Bradshaw was desperately needed (they picked Gabe Rivera) would 39 years later take Pitt’s Pickett to be the long-term sub for Ben Roethlisberger? Pretty cool to think Pickett, who for the entirety of his college career has walked into the door to the right of the Steelers/Pitt complex on the South side of the gritty city, might walk into the left door as a pro now.

We’ve gotten so used to excoriating any team that would even think of drafting a quarterback high this year that we haven’t just sat back and considered, “Maybe Kenny Pickett is actually, you know, good.” It’s true that you can find two or three throws that any quarterback makes to make him seem really good or really bad. But you’ve got to have some level of talent to make the first throw on this Greg Cosell analysis of Pickett:”

King admits this is more gut feeling than inside knowledge, and seems to be swooning over the “story” of it as some sort of redemption for passing on Dan Marino nearly 40 years ago. Beyond the “feel-good” nature of it, Pickett certainly could be the pick. He excelled in situational football, third down, and red zone, and Steelers’ OC Matt Canada recruited him out of high school. You could make a case for any of the top five QBs to be the pick here, so King’s choice, though a bit surprising, is possible.

In fact, King only has two quarterbacks taken in the entire first round. Pickett at #20 and the Atlanta Falcons trading up to #32 to select Ole Miss’ Matt Corral. That means Malik Willis didn’t go anywhere in his top 32. That would certainly be a surprise, but in such a jumbled up QB class, everything is on the table heading into draft weekend.

Elsewhere, King is following the recent buzz of Georgia’s Travon Walker, not Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, being the Jaguars pick at #1. Hutchinson goes #2 to Detroit instead. The QB-needy Carolina Panthers select OT Evan Neal instead, while the top 10 sees a run on receivers.

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