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Dynasty Rookie Prospect Profile: Kenny Pickett (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Derek Brown | @dbro_ffb | Featured Writer
May 4, 2022

After five years of collegiate experience and four years of starting reps under his belt, Kenny Pickett (QB – FA) exits Pittsburgh with an accomplished resume. He broke Pitt’s record for career passing yards with 12,303 and Dan Marino’s school record for passing touchdowns (81). He accomplished both of these feats on the strength of a massive final season. In 2021, he lit up the box scores finishing with 4,319 passing yards, 8.7 yards per attempt, and 42 passing scores. That was quite the leap for the 23-year-old, having three previous mediocre seasons under center, averaging 2,491 passing yards per season with a 38:24 passing touchdown to interception ratio. He finished third in Heisman voting this past year and was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. Despite Pickett finishing his collegiate career with a 60.9 QB rating (14th percentile, per Playerprofiler) and 7.3 yards per attempt (21st percentile), he’s built momentum in this year’s draft as a projected first-round selection. How does a player with such a Jekyll and Hyde profile project to the NFL? Let’s find out.

Kenny Pickett Draft Profile

Position QB
School Pittsburgh
Height 6’3″
Weight 217
40-Yard Dash 4.73
2021 Age 23
Class SR
Recruit. Stars 3
Projected Round 1

 

Kenny Pickett College Statistics

Year Games played Pass Attempts Passing Yards Yards per Attempt Completion % Passing Tds Int Rushing Yards
2017 4 66 509 7.7 59.1% 1 1 93
2018 14 310 1969 6.4 58.1% 12 6 220
2019 12 469 3098 6.6 61.6% 13 9 110
2020 9 332 2408 7.3 61.1% 13 9 145
2021 13 497 4319 8.7 67.2% 42 7 233

 

Kenny Pickett Dynasty Fantasy Analysis

Beginning with a bird’s eye view of Kenny Pickett’s Pitt career until 2021, we saw flashes of above-average accuracy, but the rest of his numbers leave something to be desired. Even before his otherworldly 2021 season, he ranked 18th in adjusted completion rate among his peers, so the accuracy he displayed this past season isn’t a one-and-down outlier. Starting at his big-time throw rate and his turnover-worthy play rates help to contextualize some of his attributes and shortcomings visible on film. Pickett has the adequate arm strength to make all of the throws necessary to be an NFL quarterback, but you will be disappointed if you’re looking for wow moments consistently. That is evident by a big-time throw rate that, even during his best season, never eclipsed 5.2%. Even lacking exceptional arm talent, we can’t begin to project Pickett as a play-it-safe game manager. Pickett’s lapses in aggressiveness show through with a turnover play rate that never ranked inside the top 30 at his position. While it’s not a consistent worry, he does roll the dice at times, attempting to fit passes into windows that his average arm strength is ill-equipped to convert.

Among FBS QBs with 200 or more dropbacks (Statistics per PFF):
Year Adjusted completion % (Rank) Big time throw rate Turnover worth play rate
2018 69.6% (73rd of 123) 2.4% (116th) 4.0% (73rd)
2019 75.2% (18th of 116) 3.5% (88th) 3.4% (46th)
2020 73.7% (32nd of 80) 2.8% (75th) 3.3% (36th)
2021 78.8% (6th of 124) 5.2% (52nd) 2.8% (43rd)

 

2018 Adjusted completion rates at various passing depths

(Short / Intermediate minimum 50 attempts, Deep minimum 20 attempts, per PFF)

Field Depth % of overall passing attempts Adjusted Completion % (Rank)
Deep (20+) 17.0% 32.1% (128th of 156)
Intermediate (10-19) 16.7% 63.5% (33rd of 102)
Short (0-9) 37.0% 76.5% (96th of 144)

 

2019 Adjusted completion rates at various passing depths

(Short / Intermediate minimum 50 attempts, Deep minimum 20 attempts, per PFF)

Field Depth % of overall passing attempts Adjusted Completion % (Rank)
Deep (20+) 12.1% 49.1% (31st of 151)
Intermediate (10-19) 20.0% 58.5% (58th of 99)
Short (0-9) 41.9% 81.2% (53rd of 137)

 

2020 Adjusted completion rates at various passing depths

(Short / Intermediate minimum 50 attempts, Deep minimum 20 attempts, per PFF)

Field Depth % of overall passing attempts Adjusted Completion % (Rank)
Deep (20+) 18.3% 45.9% (36th of 108)
Intermediate (10-19) 19.2% 64.1% (31st of 60)
Short (0-9) 38.4% 82.0% (45th of 111)

 

2021 Adjusted completion rates at various passing depths

(Short / Intermediate minimum 50 attempts, Deep minimum 20 attempts, per PFF)

Field Depth % of overall passing attempts Adjusted Completion % (Rank)
Deep (20+) 14.8% 56.8% (7th of 140)
Intermediate (10-19) 23.8% 69.7% (12th of 102)
Short (0-9) 38.9% 85.6% (20th of 143)

 

Despite Pickett’s passing accuracy jumping off the page in 2021, the question is can he replicate this type of prowess in the NFL? That’s the definite worry when before last season, he had never logged a top 30 finish in adjusted completion rate at any level of the field beyond the line of scrimmage.

Pickett is a rhythm passer. He worked in an offense that consistently asked him to read the field, so moving through his progressions won’t be a problem transitioning to an NFL system. He’s at his best when he’s dropping back 3-5 steps and pumping the ball out on short and intermediate routes across the middle of the field. That isn’t to say that he can’t heave it deep. His deep ball is fine. His ball placement is good enough on these throws, but there are moments when receivers are left waiting on deep balls instead of securing them in stride due to his arm strength.

His arm strength limitations and accuracy fall off when asked to push the ball outside the hashes consistently or on the run. When he’s in scramble mode (sometimes needlessly), he shows some thread the needle moments (vs. Clemson), but he often sails the pass or bounces at the receiver’s feet. He has the requisite velocity on his throws to make many of these passes outside, but he lacks the extra oomph to excel at them. The numbers below bear out the harsh truth visible in his game tape.

2019-2021 Passing 10-19 yards Middle of the field vs. Outside (Statistics per PFF):
Field area Completion rate Passer Rating
Middle 60.5% 107.8
Outside 49.2% 78.8

 

Pickett is not Joe Burrow (QB – CIN). Some analysts mention his name in the same breath as Burrow due to Pickett’s late-career production. The comparison is a quick box score comparison at best. Pickett’s pocket presence is not on par with Burrow’s now or during his final season at LSU. There are numerous instances where Pickett will bail a clean pocket at the first sniff of pressure. He also tends to drift backward or roll out instead of stepping up to survey the field. Both of these tendencies lead to his accuracy waning. He throws off his back foot or on the run, and neither outcome is desirable. If he lands on a team with a subpar offensive line, he could be “seeing ghosts” by mid-season.

I’ll leave the hand-size battle for others to fight. It’s worth noting that Pickett had 38 fumbles (26 lost) across four seasons. Whether this is related to his stubby digits or an issue with technique is fair to debate.

Pickett possesses several traits that can transition to an NFL team well. With his 4.73 speed, he is mobile in the pocket, but he shouldn’t be considered a “rushing quarterback.” His overall makeup resembles a quarterback with which a team can win. It’s questionable whether he has the raw intangibles ever to become a quarterback that a team wins because of. If you’re looking for a quarterback that can be a sum of the parts you place around him, Pickett “could” be your guy.

Player Comparison

If Dr. Frankenstein combined Alex Smith’s (QB – FA) legs with Sam Darnold’s (QB-CAR) arm.

Before the gruesome injury and heroic recovery, Alex Smith was a fringe QB1 in fantasy or solid QB2. From 2009 to 2016, he only once finished lower than QB24, but he was also a top 12 fantasy quarterback only once (QB12, 2013).

Landing Spot and Outlook

Team Drafted: Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick Selected: No. 20 overall

Kenny Pickett gets the draft capital we covet in dynasty going in the first round. The Pitt product stays close to his alma mater with the landing spot with the Steelers. Pickett should compete for the starting job in camp with Mitch Trubisky in a system that should highlight their mobility in the pocket. If he can overcome the yips against pressure behind a still leaky offensive line, Pickett could return mid to low-end QB2 numbers with a talented set of pass-catchers, including Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth around him.

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Derek Brown is a fantasy analyst at FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @dbro_ffb

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