The speculation can be put to bed starting three weeks from now. But until then, we’re all just guessing as to what kind of NFL QB Kenny Pickett will look like. Put ACC Network analyst Eric Mac Lain on the optimistic side of things, joining The Zach Gelb Show Wednesday with the opinion Pickett will quickly adjust to the pro game.
“I think he’s going to be a guy of this draft class and maybe even a bit last year, that’s going to be that Mac Jones type guy,” he told the show. “A guy who is just ready to take the next step and seamlessly transition to the NFL.”
Jones was the one rookie quarterback who flourished a year ago, finding traction and success early on in New England. Both were viewed similarly coming out as good but potentially not great caliber quarterbacks who didn’t wow with any physical tools. But both proved to be leaders for there team with the confidence to execute and get the job done. Jones finished 2021 throwing 22 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and completing more than two-thirds of his throws. A similar stat line for Pickett would be a great way to start his career.
Mac Lain praised Pickett’s demeanor and attitude as reasons why the pro game won’t chew him up.
“Kenny was a mature guy. He understood the playbook. He knew what he was getting into. He sees the field so well. I think the anticipation, arm strength are things that will help him transition quickly to the NFL.”
Unlike Jones and unlike a lot of highly touted quarterbacks, Pickett left the draft as a senior with a ton of starting experience. He considered declaring following the 2020 season but made the wise decision to return. It paid off and he had a record-setting year at Pitt, parlaying himself into being the first quarterback taken this year when Pittsburgh turned in the card at #20. Few draftniks had consensus views on this quarterback class but many considered him to be the most “pro ready” quarterback given the pro system he ran under OC Mark Whipple, a former Steelers’ QB coach.
Mac Lain also highlighted Pickett’s underrated mobility and said that will be an asset this year. The ability to take off and run or extend the play is important for rookie quarterbacks who will make mistakes, will miss reads, and get themselves into trouble. Pickett had a 9.55 Relative Athletic Score, a near identical number as Jalen Hurts (9.56), Geno Smith (9.5), and Kordell Stewart (9.49). Pickett won’t be the second coming of Slash but he’s shown enough escapability to be more than functional at the next level.
We’ll find out how right Mac Lain’s opinion is starting July 27th when the Steelers hold their first training camp practice. Pickett will battle a pair of veterans in Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph for the starting job, the first open competition under center for more than two decades.