After the NFL draft quarterbacks pro days were set to play a huge role in their futures. But after more than 300 players had already participated in them, questions began to arise as whether this was truly necessary.
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett had his pro day for scouts and evaluators on Monday. Pickett is one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft It was the first of three days of pro days, which included some of the top signal-callers in the class. All eyes will be on Liberty’s Malik Willis on Tuesday, and we’ll get a look at Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, who has been rehabbing from an ankle injury, on Wednesday. I’ll be there all three practices to witness these quarterbacks throw one final time.
But let’s start with Pickett, who looked fantastic throughout his workout tossing the football. In April, he has a shot to be the top quarterback off the board, and he is presently my No. 2 quarterback prospect. For those curious, his hand size, which has been a hot topic in the lead-up to the draft for the last two months, measured 8 5/8 inches during his pro day, slightly larger than it did at the combine.
Here are some of my key findings from Pickett’s pro day exercise, as well as what the gifted quarterback has in store for the future. Check back later this week for Willis and Corral’s pro day insights.
No. 22 on the list (QB2)
Pickett has the necessary arm strength.
To be clear, Pickett’s arm strength has never been an issue. However, it has never been a distinguishing characteristic. On video, you have to question whether he has the arm strength to play in any NFL offense or if he’s more suited to a West Coast offense. Is he capable of driving the ball and making all of his throws?
Pickett, on the other hand, made it a point to demonstrate his ability on his pro day. Quarterbacks often build up to long passes at the conclusion of their practice routines. They’ll spend the most of the workout hitting intermediate throws before airing it out at the conclusion. Pickett, on the other hand, jumped right in with a vertical shot on his fifth or sixth throw, hitting on a 57-yard pass. He had around ten tosses from inside the pocket that went 55 yards or more in the air. (He also threw a lot of passes in the center of the field.)
Pickett and I chatted for a while after he completed throwing for the day, and he claimed it was the day’s major objective. He didn’t want to leave any question in the minds of the assessors that he possesses the arm strength to strike every throw.
Over the course of his career, I saw three of his games live and have probably seen 40 of his 49 starts on film. However, being close on the pitch as he delivered the ball provided an excellent opportunity to observe arm strength in particular. I’m wanting to see how much zip the ball has from the moment it’s released until it reaches the goal. Is it ejected with force from his hand? Is it possible that the passes will sail or die in the end? And I’m looking at it all via different types of throws, such as deep shots, out routes, intermediate in-breakers, and so on. When you’re that close, you get a great sensation of it, and Pickett’s passes were all striking the receivers’ hands with terrific force.
Pro day exercises are just one piece of the jigsaw, and it’s hard to get too enthusiastic about a quarterback throwing against no defense on a prearranged script. Pickett, on the other hand, was remarkable. I had grossly underestimated his arm power. You want to know that your quarterback can complete every pass and drive the ball, and he demonstrated that he had the necessary arm talent.
His method of working is wonderful.
Pickett has 49 starts on his résumé, elected to play in the Senior Bowl (and remain for the whole week), and participated in all of the combine’s throwing sessions. He now returns to Pitt to perform during his pro day. It may not seem to be much, but for someone who is already the assumed first quarterback off the board (and certainly no less than the second), the fact that he’s out there again says something to scouts and evaluators. It would be simple to omit these sections of the exercise, but Pickett has gone about it the way NFL organizations want it done. It confirms what I’ve heard about his dedication to his job.
Pickett maintains putting on a show at these pre-draft activities, even when the narrative is geared to his hand size, as I highlighted after the combine. He’s able to set everything else aside and simply toss the ball. By performing on the field, he continues resetting the narrative. (It remains to be seen if his hand size issues affect his draft position and/or NFL performance.)
Kenny Pickett seems unconcerned with the media’s attention to his hand size, claiming that it is a larger matter with coaches.
Two head coaches were present.
The absence of NFL head coaches at Pickett’s pro day startled me a little. Matt Rhule, the coach of the Carolina Panthers was one of two NFL head coaches present. He spoke with Pickett one-on-one for ten minutes. Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the other head coach in attendance. Four general managers were present: Scott Fitterer (Panthers), Kevin Colbert (Steelers), Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons), and Martin Mayhew (Atlanta Falcons) (Washington Commanders).
The quarterback movement hasn’t slowed down this offseason, but I’m beginning to wonder where these players will wind up in April. Detroit (No. 2), Carolina (No. 6), Atlanta (No. 8) and Seattle (No. 9) all have needs in the top 10, but it seems too early to choose any of these signal-callers, including Pickett. The demand exists, but the supply does not. Then, as the supply increases, demand slows, with a lengthy run of choices involving clubs with no urgent need for a quarterback until the draft reaches the Steelers at No. 20.
What does all of this imply? Will the Panthers go for it at No. 6 right away, or will they attempt to trade down? Will the Steelers be fortunate enough to get one of the top two passers without having to trade up from the 20th pick? Will Pittsburgh choose with the local man it knows and has seen up close (Malik Willis) or the high-upside talent who may need a little more time to develop? Even without a top-five quarterback this year, the first round for quarterbacks might be exciting.