MOBILE, Ala. — As great as he has been on the field in the Cincinnati Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl, Joe Burrow’s most exceptional quality as a quarterback might be the confidence he exudes off it.
And Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said he sees Burrow-like qualities in one of this year’s top quarterback prospects in the NFL draft, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett.
“I know that just the way he’s wired and spending time around him and the kind of guy he is, and talking with the guys at the Manning (Passing Academy) that have been around him and the guys at Pitt, he’s going to crush this process,” Nagy said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. “I think he’s already starting to in the interviews right now. He’s got a really cool way about him. Kind of reminds me a little bit of Burrow when I got to know Joe through this process. He’s just, guys gravitate to him. He’s a leader. It comes easy to him. So this is the start of a big week for him.”
Pickett is the star attraction at this week’s Senior Bowl, and while he will not play for the Detroit Lions-coached American team, he has a chance to impress Lions brass and perhaps push his way into the mix to be the team’s quarterback of the future.
A four-year starter at Pitt, Pickett considered leaving school early last year, but returned for his senior season on the advice of Nagy and others who projected him as a Day 3 draft pick.
He threw for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns this season, led Pitt to an 11-2 record in his 13 starts, and made a Burrow-esque rise up draft boards.
Burrow was considered a Day 3 pick before leading LSU to the national title in 2019. The Bengals took him first overall in the 2020 NFL draft, and will play in their first Super Bowl in 33 years next week against the Los Angeles Rams.
“That’s a hell of a comparison,” Pickett said. “I’m going to have to have Jim intro me like that everywhere I go. … But he’s a heck of a player obviously at the college level and now doing what he’s doing at the NFL. Had a chance to be roommates with him at the Manning Camp. Talked to him towards the end of our season at Pitt. Great guy, definitely great role model to have going into the NFL.”
Burrow was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft coming out of LSU, a pinpoint passer who received high marks for his poise and mental acuity.
Pickett has similar strengths, drawing high marks for his polish and consistency, but is not nearly as highly-regarded as a prospect.
“We’re both not Lamar Jackson, but we can move around and extend some plays and find guys downfield,” Pickett said. “I think that’s a huge piece, and I think really the mental aspect. The game’s definitely slowing down for him. You can just tell by the way he’s playing. That’s where I got to the point this season at Pitt and at the college level, and I just want to streamline the process as much as I can and get to that level at the NFL as fast as I can.”
One lingering question NFL scouts have with Pickett that won’t be answered this week is is hand size.
Pickett, whose hands are expected to measure on the small side for an NFL quarterback, regularly played with gloves at Pitt to help his grip.
He did not have his hands measured at Monday’s Senior Bowl weigh-in, saying he was doing hand stretches to get a more accurate reading and would wait until March’s NFL combine, but said concerns about his hands are overblown after playing four years in Pennsylvania weather.
“I think consistency (is what I’m trying to prove this week),” Pickett said. “I think everyone knows the kind of year I just had and it was a lot different from the previous three years, so I just want to show that playing at a high level for 13 games isn’t kind of a luck thing. You’ve got to be the same guy every single week and I want to be the same guy now down here in Mobile and just show consistency.”