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College-to-pro projections for Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett

Charlotte, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) looks to pass in the first quarter of the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft is fast approaching. Our big board is awaiting its final tweaks, mock draft season is in full swing and the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine starts next week.

In preparation, we’ve already written projection pieces on quarterbacks Carson Strong, Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder.

While no quarterback in this class is good enough to be picked in the top five, it’s maybe more important to have projections contextualized for the teams that might use their coveted first-rounder on a signal-caller.

Let's look at Pittsburgh‘s Kenny Pickett, who earned the third-most Wins Above Average (WAA) among college football players in 2021. The four-year starter was a relatively average player in 2020 but improved immensely in 2021, potentially enough to warrant a first-round pick this April.

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Kenny Pickett’s Wins Above Average (WAA) during his college career.

Compared to other players with PFF college data, Pickett’s 2021 metrics in the most predictive of data subsets measured up really well:

Pickett’s percentile ranks in the most stable passing stats during the 2021 season. Comparisons are with players with both PFF NCAA data and PFF NFL data.

Our college-to-pro system weighs recent play more heavily than older play but also adjusts for the opponent and situation. So, much like Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, Pickett will benefit from being a much better player at the end of his career than at the beginning, but the weak competition he faced in the ACC won't do him any favors.

In league-average circumstances, here are Pickett’s projections for yards per attempt and completion percentage as a rookie:

Pickett’s rookie-year projections in league-average circumstances.

And as a fifth-year player:

Pickett’s 2026 projections in league-average circumstances.

Like it is for most players, the projection for Pickett is to get better by the time he is a veteran player. His comps in this scenario include Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton and late-career Eli Manning.

Notice these projections are about the same as they were for Ridder, who many have at the top of their QB board.

We have Pickett’s median projection at about 1.5 WAR for a 700-dropback season, which is slightly less than that of Ridder:

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