Kenny Pickett is a rising prospect, but should the Lions have him as the No. 1 quarterback on their 2022 draft board?
It’s no secret the Detroit Lions will be in the market for a quarterback in the 2022 draft, even if Jared Goff will likely still be on the roster next year. The question is if said rookie signal caller will be ready to start right away as a rookie, or if it’ll be more ideal for him to at least start the season on the bench.
The 2022 draft class has few first-round caliber quarterback prospects, but to see a handful drafted on Day 1 will not be a surprise. The Lions have two first-round picks, with the second one (via the Matthew Stafford trade with the Rams) seen widely as an ideal spot to take a quarterback. With that, I present Kenny Pickett.
Should Kenny Pickett be the No.1 quarterback on the Lions’ draft board?
In his latest Lions-centric mock draft, Joe Marino of The Draft Network has them taking Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett with that second first-round pick (projected No. 32 overall). Pickett is having a great final collegiate season, with 2,755 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions through eight games. The fifth-year senior surpassed Dan Marino’s school record for total touchdowns a couple weeks ago.
Marino cited Pickett’s experience.
In his fourth season as a starter for Pitt, Pickett has a reasonable claim that he’s been the best quarterback in college football in 2021—which has significantly elevated his draft stock and he’s now in the first-round conversation. In eight starts this season, Pickett has tallied 2,755 passing yards with 26 touchdowns, just three interceptions, and a 69.2% completion percentage. He’s making throws to all levels of the field and continues to deliver in clutch moments. He has good size, mobility, toughness, and is an ascending talent that gives Detroit a chance to find the long-term answer at the most important position on the field.
Pickett might be the most pro-ready quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft class. While guys like Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder are easily regarded to have higher ceilings, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi took up for his quarterback with Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio recently.
“He runs a pro-style offense, and I think that’s so important when you think about these NFL quarterbacks and who’s running your team. He’s played in a pro offense for really five years. He’s done it all… I think there’s no question he’s a first-rounder. The question is, is he the first quarterback taken. But I definitely think he’s a first-rounder. That’s what he’s done this season.”
Pickett will turn 24 in June, so owing to coming back to Pitt for a fifth year he’s an older prospect. But he was not on the NFL radar a year ago, so returning to school was the only choice if he had any aspirations on that front. A free year due to the pandemic was easy to take advantage of, and it has clearly benefited him.
For the Lions, even if they won’t come anywhere near saying so publicly, the sooner Goff can be replaced as the starting quarterback the better. If given the chance to win the starting job, Pickett could make Goff an expensive backup from the get-go next season.
As the Lions’ front office continues to shape its 2022 draft board, Pickett could rise to the top spot among quarterbacks in short order (if he’s not there already). Immediate readiness to play might be the tipping point in his favor, assuming he even lasts to the Lions’ second first-round pick.