The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and the Atlanta Falcons have fast become one of the most intriguing teams to watch in this year’s event. There are a number of ways the Falcons can go with their No. 8 overall pick, and they’ve got five of the top 82 picks in this draft.
In the lead-up to this important draft for Atlanta, we’re going to be providing our evaluations of some of the top prospects. For those unfamiliar with our process, we’re using Kevin Knight’s own grading system, which you can read about here. This system is still in development and minor tweaks may be made as more data is available.
Today’s prospect is Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett. Considered by some draft analysts to be the top prospect at his position in this class, Pickett offers a nice package of quarterback skills. He has a lively arm, good accuracy and the mobility to make plays outside of the pocket.
QB | Kenny Pickett | Pittsburgh | #8
Games watched: Virginia, Boston College, Duke, Clemson
Kenny Pickett has the ability to develop into a starter in the NFL, but he will need to improve and fine-tune some of the finer elements of his game. Possessing an easy, over-the-top throwing motion, Pickett can fit the ball into tight windows all over the field. While out of sequence, Pickett keeps his eyes downfield and relies on his senses to detect and avoid pressure.
Too often on film, Pickett failed to identify a hot defender or see a late change in the coverage that resulted in a negative play. When faced with pressure, Pickett’s natural instinct is to bail from the pocket and find open space rather than avoiding the defender in a phone booth and resetting his feet. He needs to gain more feel for moving up into the pocket, as he put himself into harm’s way at times while climbing too far.
When on the move, Pickett can make some incredible throws. His natural arm ability allows him to make off-platform throws without sacrificing much accuracy or pace. Pickett needs more discipline with his lower body outside of the pocket, however, as he is often throwing off the wrong foot or falling away from his target.
Consistency both pre-and-post-snap may be the biggest question mark for Pickett entering the NFL, and his ability to refine his play and create good habits could be the difference in him developing into an average league starter or settling into a backup role. The wow plays are there on tape, but he needs to do the little things just as well.
Decision Making: 4
Makes poor reads and stares down receivers. Misses hot reads and opens himself up to free blitzers frequently. Can re-adjust his eyes to find the open man when the play breaks down.
Pushes the ball downfield and goes for the big play. Will lower his shoulder to make plays while scrambling. Attacks the ball carrier after turnovers to make himself a viable defender.
Ranked 5th in 2021 by PFF in adjusted completion percentage. Maintains his accuracy while on the move and outside the pocket. Puts the ball where it needs to be at all levels. Needs to improve his ability to throw receivers open.
Second-highest time to throw at 3.19 seconds, per PFF. Smooth and easy release that gets a tight spiral on the ball. No hitches in his throwing motion. Great but inconsistent footwork in the pocket. Can throw from different angles.
Arm Strength: 6
Enough strength to fit the ball into tight windows on difficult out routes to the boundary. Can hit deep shots downfield, even while throwing off his back foot. Varies his touch on the ball to throw with the appropriate speed for specific routes.
Good size for an NFL quarterback. Hand size is a major question; he wore gloves on both hands to give him better control of the ball.
Four-year starter with 49 career starts at Pitt. He showed improvement each season. Major jump in his final collegiate season when he threw for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Broke Dan Marino’s passing records at Pitt.
Pocket Presence: 5
Looks antsy in the pocket at times. He will drift in his drops to buy himself extra time. Looks to bail out of the pocket instead of stepping up and settling. Will miss pre-snap indicators that would give him a cleaner pocket.
He will make plays with his legs and keep his eyes downfield while on the move. Displays nice accuracy outside of the pocket to keep all options in play. Directs traffic when the play breaks down. A good athlete, but not a real threat as a runner.
Body Control: 5
Throws off his back foot with regularity, especially while on the move. Sets a good, firm base when he’s in rhythm. Base isn’t connected to his arm as often as it should be when things around him get messy.
Athleticism: 9.54, 19/20
Pickett will be a good athlete at the quarterback position for the first half of his career. He won’t be a true dual-threat player in the NFL, but Pickett is certainly athletic enough to make defenses pay when they lose track of him.