Kenny Pickett Named ‘Mid-Tier’ QB After Rookie Season

Kenny Pickett’s season was a tale of two halves. A difficult start being thrown into the fire earlier than most expected, replacing Mitch Trubisky at halftime in Week 4’s loss to the New York Jets. Even tougher was his first official start the following weekend in Buffalo, a blowout loss where the Steelers trailed the entire game.

But Pickett and the offense righted the ship after the bye, going 7-2 down the stretch and nearly wiggling their way into the playoffs.

Put it all together and PFF considers Pickett to be a “mid-tier” quarterback after Year One. In their tiered rankings released Thursday, Pickett found himself towards the bottom of the middle of the pack, officially ranking 20th in their grades.

Here’s what author John Kosko wrote:

“Rookie Kenny Pickett came on strong toward the end of the season and had the Pittsburgh Steelers on the verge of a playoff berth. From Week 12 on, he trailed only Joe Burrow in PFF passing grade.”

PFF certainly became high on Pickett down the stretch, calling him the #2 graded quarterback through the air from Week 12 and on. Over that span, he threw four touchdowns to just one interception while he pushed the ball a bit further downfield, finishing with a yards-per-attempt of 6.5. His completion percentage was lower but in context, Pickett still graded out well.

Taking care of the ball was the biggest difference in his play. Though some of his pre-bye interceptions weren’t his fault, he threw just one interception after Week 9, the second-fewest of any quarterback over that span with at least 150+ passes.

Pickett finished one spot behind the Cleveland Browns’ Jacoby Brissett and just two behind the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott. He’ll look to take a big leap in his second year, a common occurrence, with the benefit of playing time at his back. Players learn by doing, by making mistakes, and by learning not to make the same one twice. With an offense that should remain nearly fully intact, there’s reason to have high expectations for Pickett’s play in 2023.

PFF’s top-ranked quarterback was Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes followed by Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. Bringing up the rear was New York Jets’ Zach Wilson at #37. Deshaun Watson finished 33rd overall, far behind Pickett, and he’ll need to play far better next season or else the Browns will have made one of the biggest mistakes in NFL history. Which would be extremely on-brand.

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