Kenny Pickett Named NFL’s 5th-Best QB Under 25

It’s the middle of May which means it’s time for the annual hyper-specific lists to get us by. The best old players, the best young players, the top five wide receivers who really love free form jazz. Good Morning Football put together one of those lists today, ranking the top-five quarterbacks under the age of 25. And host Jamie Erdahl placed Kenny Pickett 5th in that category.

“Kenny Pickett had a second half of the season once he took over the starting spot,” Erdahl said. “He only suffered one loss in the final six games of 2022. That loss was to the Ravens, a game in which he got knocked out. So that didn’t even come at the hands of Kenny Pickett. What we hear about him a lot is how he takes command, the leadership role of this time. But this guy can just ball. The way he gets out of the pocket.”

Pickett was the first quarterback selected in the 2022 draft, taken 20th overall by the Steelers in what turned out to be an underwhelming class. But he easily had the most successful rookie campaign of the top names (Malik Willis, Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder), beginning the year as the backup before being given the keys midway through the team’s Week 4 game against the New York Jets.

He took his lumps in his first few games, getting blown out by Buffalo in his first start, but as Erdahl notes, Pickett and the Steelers’ offense improved down the stretch. Some of that was accomplished by taking less off his plate. Frankly, it was hard to evaluate him when he was playing from behind and being asked to throw 40+ times per game. That isn’t a position most rookie quarterbacks won’t succeed in. But Pittsburgh found its footing after the bye with a better run defense and #1-ranked third down offense to stay on schedule. Pickett took care of the ball and made his share of plays too, leading consecutive game-winning drives to beat the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.

Before the bye, Pickett had thrown just two touchdowns with eight interceptions. Those numbers flipped after the bye, five touchdowns and one interception. He will need to simply be more productive in 2023, seven touchdowns in 12 games isn’t a winning formula, but the stats only tell part of the story. Pickett’s game improved and he took ownership of the team, something that’s carried over into the offseason. His work ethic and leadership have been on display from him training just two weeks after the Steelers’ season ended, to helping set up a Florida workout with the skill guys, to him texting and welcoming seemingly every signing or draft pick the team makes.

On Erdahl’s list, Pickett ranks behind Chicago’s Justin Fields, San Francisco’s Brock Purdy, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. Pickett’s place on this list is only temporarily, as he graduates to the 25-club early next month. Frankly, the competition for this list was pretty light, Mac Jones is the only notable omission, and the slew of rookie quarterbacks selected last month could soon dominate this list.

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