For 39 years, Dan Marino stood as the most recent Pitt Panthers quarterback to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That ended Thursday, when Kenny Pickett was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 20th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Pickett is the latest first-round quarterback drafted since 1997.

A New Jersey native, Pickett burst on to the scene as a freshman when he helped Pitt upset then-No. 2 Miami. A year later, Pickett helped the Panthers capture the school's first ACC Coastal Division title. His production took off shortly after Mark Whipple was named offensive coordinator in 2019. After two years of development, Pickett enjoyed a prolific 2021 season that included breaking Marino's school record for career touchdown passes. 

Last year's ACC Player of the Year, Pickett completed 67.2% of his passes for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He also had a rule made in his honor following his touchdown run during the Panthers' win over Wake Forest in the ACC Championship Game. 

Pickett is now part of a quarterback room in Pittsburgh that includes Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. Pittsburgh's offense also includes running back Najee Harris, receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, and tight end Pat Freiermuth. The Steelers are expected to select a receiver during Day Two of the draft. 

Grade: A

Pete Prisco: I love this pick. They take the local kid to play quarterback and he will prove to be the best quarterback in this class. Give him a few games, and he will have the job. Pickett has the tools to become a quality starter. This works in a lot of ways.

Scouting report

Rating: 87.80 (Long-term starter)

Pro Comparison: Derek Carr

Strengths: Made huge strides during 2021 after being considered a Day 3 pick after his 2020 season. Consistently shows great touch on mid-range passes, and the ball comes out quickly and on time. Maximizes yards-after-catch possibility for his targets on short and intermediate routes. Good athlete who, when needed, can consistently win with his legs outside the pocket. Plays with confidence in the face of pressure while keeping his eyes downfield, and he'll stand in the pocket and deliver a strike. While he doesn't have an elite arm, he showed throughout the season that he has the ability to throw deep outs, and the ball had both velocity and accuracy.

Weaknesses: His hand size -- the smallest among QBs since Michael Vick was drafted more than two decades ago -- will be an issue for some teams and not for others. Doesn't have an elite arm but can make every NFL throw. Sometimes has tunnel vision and misses open targets downfield and instead opts for checkdowns or looks to run. Sometimes his ball can lose steam on deep outs. Averaged more than 3.1 seconds per dropback at Pitt, and he'll lock onto a read even with other WRs coming open. Won't have that kind of time at the next level.


  • 2021: 42 pass TDs (ACC single-season record)
  • Pitt all-time leader in pass yards (12,303) and pass TDs (81)

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