Kenny Pickett Was NFL’s 2nd-Most Accurate Deep Passer In 2023 According To Deep Ball Project

While you wouldn’t have to look hard to find a Kenny Pickett fan in Pittsburgh, most nevertheless have their reservations about how he is going to develop as the Steelers’ franchise quarterback. He made significant strides during his rookie season, but at least the perception indicates there’s still much room for improvement in certain target areas.

One area in which many feel he has to get better, perhaps even much better, is in his deep passing accuracy. Yet at least according to the Deep Ball Project, that’s not exactly the case. In fact, he was the second-most accurate quarterback in the league on deep passes—that is, in terms of accuracy, not necessarily completion percentage.

According to the numbers of this project, Pickett only completed 15 out of 40 passes of 21 or more air yards on the season, yet he was accurate on 23 out of 40. His 57.5 percent accuracy was second only to Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks, who was accurate on 63.46 percent of his deep passes.

This may not surprise anybody, but Pickett’s strength was in the shallowest portion of the ‘deep’ passing game, accurate on 19 out of 28 deep passes of 21 to 30 air yards, or 67.86 percent. That was, again, second only to Smith. He was only accurate on three out of 10 passes targeted 31-40 yards down the field, however, lending much credence to the perception. He was one of two on deeper passes, but that’s too small a sample size to consider.

So what do we make of this? Accurate from within 30 yards but not from beyond that point? That seems to be within the wheelhouse of many of those ‘broken’ plays where he would find tight end Pat Freiermuth for a comfortable gain.

Of course, being accurate only holds value if the pass is caught. According to the numbers, Pickett had eight accurate deep passes that fell incomplete. That was tied for the eighth-most in the league, but by percentage, he would rank as having the worst luck among anybody above him on that list, since he had fewer pass attempts. Indeed, only Daniel Jones’ five accurate incompletions on 24 deep passes counted for a slightly larger percentage.

One other thing worth noting is that Pickett was apparently rather accurate under pressure. He was accurate on a full two-thirds of his deep passes when under duress, though eight out of 12 is a somewhat small sample size. Still, only Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills was more accurate under pressure.

On the other hand, Pickett was only accurate on seven out of 10 deep targets to open receivers, a rather middling number, but was only one of three quarterbacks to be accurate on 50 percent or more of his deep passes into tight windows, along with Joe Burrow and Smith.

The final takeaway, at least from this data, is that Pickett has a lot to work with as a deep passer—if he can push his range beyond 30 yards. The real field-flipping plays come further afield. He only had one pass gain 40 or more yards all season, and just eight gathered 30 or more.

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