You can’t spit without inadvertently hitting somebody who thinks the 2022 NFL Draft class at the quarterback position was a weak one. It was really a historic one in the golden age of the quarterback, with the latest a quarterback’s come off the board in many years, and the first time since the 1990s that only one was drafted in the first two rounds.
That one quarterback would be Kenny Pickett, drafted 20th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers, meaning that he will be playing his professional football where he played his college ball: at Heinz Field. At least, assuming the stadium retains the same name.
But just because he was drafted in the first round doesn’t mean he instantly has a rosy projection for his future. In fact, a large percentage of first-round quarterbacks—including top-five picks—simply do not work out. ESPN draft expert Matt Miller, unfortunately, believes Pickett and the rest of these quarterbacks will fall into that category.
Asked to make a prediction about the 2022 NFL Draft class five years from now, as part of an ESPN Insider article in which he and Jordan Reid break down various facets of the draft class and how it played out, Miller offered this sobering vision of 2027 and beyond:
I hate to close this article out on a sour note, but five years from now, no quarterbacks from the 2022 draft class will be starting with the team that drafted them. Only Kenny Pickett will have a team option for a five-year contract and as for the other quarterbacks, being selected in Round 3 or later doesn’t bode well for the job security of the quarterbacks in this class.
The five most notable quarterbacks, as you well know, were Pickett, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder, and Sam Howell. The meat of that group ended up being drafted in the third round, though Howell had to wait all the way until Round 5—when many expected him to be a safe bet for Day 2. At least, before it really sunk in just how negatively the NFL community viewed this quarterback class.
As Miller notes, Willis and company won’t have a fifth-year option attached to their contract, so if they’re starting and established by then, if their drafting team doesn’t extend them heading into year four, they’re going to have to slap them with a franchise tag.
Is there really a conceivable future in which Pickett plays like a starter and the Steelers don’t lock him up beyond his rookie deal, though? That’s hard to envision. Harder than envisioning a future in which Pickett just isn’t all that great and doesn’t merit a second contract at starter money.