While the 2022 quarterback draft class is not labeled as extraordinarily strong, Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett will be an intriguing name as managers decipher his 2022 dynasty fantasy football value and future projection. As the eyes of the fantasy community shift towards upcoming rookie drafts, how does his new landing spot fit Pickett’s strengths and weaknesses, and what is his 2022 dynasty value at the moment?
Kenny Pickett’s dynasty fantasy profile
Seemingly every season, a quarterback comes out of nowhere to elevate their draft stock. We watched Joe Burrow do it, then Zach Wilson, and last season we watched Pickett add his name to this list. Despite the questions about his hand size, what Pickett did on the field was undeniable.
Pickett went from a relative unknown to being the potential 1.01 in 2022 superflex dynasty rookie drafts, given the longevity and scarcity of the QB position. In all likelihood, Pickett will be a Year 1 starter in the NFL.
How Pickett performed at Pitt
In his final season (13 games), the 6’3 1/4″, 221-pound redshirt senior completed 334 of 497 passes (67.2%) for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. Pickett passed for 12,303 yards and 81 touchdowns in his career with the Panthers.
He finished his college tenure with the most 300-yard passing games (16) and 400-yard passing games (five) in school history.
As with all rookie QBs, it’s hard to completely nail down what a player’s value will be in dynasty. Some flourish like Burrow and Justin Herbert, and some disappoint, as Tua Tagovailoa has so far. Also, consider the franchise’s stability, as changes in the coaching staff play a considerable role in early development.
In terms of translatable talent, Pickett appears to be the style of player who should have a consistent week-in and week-out floor. While his ceiling might not be the highest, Pickett should be the first or second QB selected in dynasty rookie drafts in 2022.
Those who prefer more pocket-passer-style QBs will love Pickett. Possessing a quick, short throwing motion, he wastes no time getting the ball out of his hands. While he’s not breaking fingers, he has NFL-caliber velocity, throws a ball receivers like to catch, and can do it from multiple arm angles. Requisite throws such as the far-hash to the numbers or sideline are all over his tape, showing he has NFL-level arm strength. Yet, no one is confusing his passes for those of Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, or Carson Strong.
Pickett is not prone to turnovers, either. While he did have 7 in 2021, he also threw the ball nearly 500 times with a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio. This, along with his field-general mentality, helps the offense sustain drives. For fantasy, that means more opportunities for everyone involved.
While Pickett succeeds in structure, he also performs when things get dicey, allowing him to keep a level head mid-play. His competitive toughness is elite, as is his ability to be clutch when off-script. Yes, Pickett can make throws off-platform, but his lower-half mechanics allow him to maintain proper alignment to his target more often than not. This allows Pickett to deliver accurate and well-placed balls regardless of the situation.
While Pickett is not Willis, do not mistake him as a statue in the pocket. After all, Pickett forced the NCAA to create a new rule in 2021 due to his “fake slide” play when he scrambled for a TD. He’s not “sneaky mobile” — he’s just flat-out mobile and athletic. There were numerous occasions when Pickett picked up chunk yards with his legs. Those saying those don’t exist simply didn’t watch the tape.
Not everything is perfect for Pickett. After all, there’s a reason no one is comparing him to the highly touted QBs of the past. Pickett can get a little jittery when the pocket gets messy. He sometimes bails when stepping up is the proper move, so I expect his next coach to work on pocket awareness and maneuverability.
There are also times Pickett trusts his arm a bit too much. To quote PFN Draft Analyst Ian Cummings, he has “arm arrogance.” Pickett believes he can fit a ball into windows that he shouldn’t be trying. He got away with it most of the time in college. That won’t be the case in the NFL.
We also need to see how Pickett transitions into a system where full-field progressions are expected as Pittsburgh employed a lot of quick, one-read plays.
Personally, I’m not worried about Pickett’s ability to process coverage, but we need to see him confirm this at the next level when defenses are disguising their coverages. If he struggles a bit early on, don’t panic sell in dynasty. History says this will happen more times than not.
First-round QBs struggle…and it’s okay
Since 2010, there have been 39 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Five of those came last season alone. Of those 39 QBs, only five finished their rookie dynasty season as a top-12 QB (QB1). Only eight were inside the top 18, one of whom was Mac Jones in 2021 (QB18).
Expand it to every round of the draft, and the number grows to just seven as Russell Wilson (pick No. 75) and Dak Prescott (pick No. 135) are added. It’s not great, even on a per-game side of things, as just four QBs averaged above 18 points per game.
As a collective of dynasty managers, there needs to be a shift in rookie expectations. The NFL is hard. Give these guys a chance to catch their breath before writing them off as busts and taking 40 cents on the dollar for your draft pick.
If they’re good, they’ll have progress in Year 2. That’s what good players do. Sure, it’s an oversimplification, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Look at Burrow, for example. He was QB16 when his knee was taken out. The next season, he led the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance and is now viewed as a top-six dynasty QB. I’m not saying Pickett is Burrow, but we need to give guys more than 17 games before talking in absolutes.
Pickett’s injury history
Pickett has a relatively clean bill of health. While he cited injury concerns when opting out of the Panthers’ bowl game, he’s managed to avoid any serious injuries.
The most notable scare came in 2021 against Western Michigan. In a 7-7 game, Pickett scrambled up the middle for a first down but was hit from behind. He fumbled the ball and then stayed down on the field in obvious pain. He left under his own power but did not return. Aside from that, Pickett passes the injury-concern test.
Kenny Pickett the next quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers were patient. They let the chaos of the draft play out and waited their turn. In the end, both Willis and Pickett were available to them at No. 20. While the rumors and speculation pointed towards Willis, the Steelers stuck with the hometown kid by selecting Pickett.
Since he was signed in the offseason, Mitch Trubisky has been viewed as a bridge quarterback. This confirms it. Trubisky will be the starter for the 2022 season, and by selecting Pickett in the first round, they have the fifth-year option available.
The best thing you can ask for is for a quarterback to be selected by a team with stability from the top down. No franchise personifies this more than the Steelers. They have been as stable from the top down for as long as it gets.
The Steelers have playmakers on their roster with Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth. The question is, will Johnson be there in 2023 when Pickett is projected to be the starter?
The defense is in a decent spot with T.J. Watt, and the offensive line is improving, but pushing Pickett’s debut a year down the road allows it to get even better once he gets under center.
Willis, in my opinion, has a higher ceiling. With that said, Pickett should be a top-two QB off the board in superflex drafts. Whether or not he should be the 1.01 will depend on your thoughts on Pickett and where Willis is selected.