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Kenny Pickett established himself as a top quarterback prospect in 2021, but what of his late breakout?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) warms up before the game against the New Hampshire Wildcats at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After years of below-average quarterback play, Kenny Pickett, playing in his fifth season of college football and starting in his fourth, finally broke out.

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Pickett was never as bad as his numbers suggested, with issues unrelated to his skill as a quarterback always being big factors. Still, we would have liked to see a player who elevated his team to a certain degree. A 75.0 PFF grade as a junior in 2019 looked like it marked the start of a climb up the charts, only for his grade to fall to 69.8 in 2020. Yet, heading into the 2021 season, there was still a glimmer of hope, as we wrote in the 2021 College Football Preview Magazine.

“Pickett has produced middling grades over his time at Pitt, but it’s still hard to pinpoint where he is as a quarterback, given his surrounding cast and offensive scheme. Most top quarterbacks play in schemes that create easy, open throws and rarely have to throw over the shark-infested water that is the middle of the field. The Pitt signal-caller has to deal with those issues as well as an offensive line that hasn’t done him any favors. We could see the true Kenny Pickett if everything breaks right for Pitt in 2021, but the factors out of his control may prove difficult to overcome.”

Well, everything broke right.

Pickett produced a 92.3 grade and finished third in Heisman voting as the Pittsburgh Panthers won the ACC championship in 2021. It was a storybook ending to a college football career, but where exactly does that put Pickett in the pecking order among quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft?


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