Kenny Pickett would not have fallen to Steelers’ pick in the 2nd round
Following the aftermath of the 2022 NFL Draft, one of the hottest topics of discussion has been the emphasis on the quarterback class.
This year’s QB class, headlined by Pittsburgh Steelers first round pick Kenny Pickett, “fell” compared to prior years that saw franchises stumbling over one another like a Black Friday sale to get their signal caller of the future.
Instead of seeing multiple passers get picked in the top ten – or top five – this year, Pittsburgh was able to stay put, trading absolutely nothing to remain in their 20th overall slot and have their pick of the litter with every quarterback still available when they went on the clock.
That selection would yield the Steelers the University of Pittsburgh quarterback, Pickett. But then, no other quarterbacks would be chosen until the Atlanta Falcons selected University of Cincinnati standout Desmond Ridder with the 74th pick, in the third round.
Critics are now quick to point out that the Steelers “could’ve waited” until at least the second round to take their target. However, that’s total hogwash and viewing the NFL Draft through the lens of having already seen the fallout.
Proving those naysayers wrong, here’s why the Steelers were wise to take Pickett with pick 20.
Teams in need of a QB
While the argument that this year’s quarterback class has been weaker than other years may ring true, Kenny Pickett stood head and shoulders above his class as the most “pro read” passer.
The problem is, even if Kenny were in a tier by himself, the teams which needed a quarterback were few and far between at the top half of the draft.
Heading into day one of the event, eight teams would not have a first round selection whatsoever. This netted several teams multiple first round picks, as the eight teams figure would actually rise on draft day as other clubs moved up and yet other moved out of the first round.
Atop the draft sat the Jacksonville Jaguars, who already took Trevor Lawrence with their first overall pick the previous year. The Detroit Lions seemed settled on their QB, Jared Goff, and the New York Jets had already drafted Zach Wilson one year ago as well.
The question marks started floating in with the Houston Texans at pick three: could they upgrade from Davis Mills? Or what of the New York Giants moving on from Daniel Jones at pick five and the Carolina Panthers doing the same with Sam Darnold with pick six?
It would appear those teams felt comfortable enough with whom they currently have under center, versus the value of other positions they could take with their picks, that allowed Pickett to slide.
Still, it was no guarantee he would make it to 20 to begin with, let alone the Steelers second round choice at pick 52.
Does Pickett even make it to 20?
No one had a clue if Kenny Pickett would slide past the Atlanta Falcons at pick 8 or Seattle Seahawks with pick 9, let alone further down the draft board.
The New Orleans Saints made a pre-draft move to add an extra pick before the Steelers would be on the clock – and posed another threat to Pickett not remaining in the Steel City.
There was also a question as to whether the Philadelphia Eagles would take a shot with one of their two draft picks preceding the Steelers choice too. The Texans, who passed on Pickett with pick three, had yet another draft selection at pick 15.
This doesn’t include trying to mindread what the Washington Commander would do at pick 16, while the Tennessee Titans jumped ahead of Pittsburgh into slot 18 and gave everyone a heart pounding few minutes as no one could guess who they were trading up to grab – could it be someone to put current starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the hot seat as an eventual franchise QB?
In fact, that’s why NFL bets had the Steelers as the overall favorite to select Malik Willis, and not Kenny Pickett, with their choice: because most of the oddsmakers felt that Pickett would not be available by the time Pittsburgh went on the clock with pick 20.
What if the Steelers pass at 20?
Now knowing the results of the entire draft, critics would like to point out that Steelers “could’ve waited”.
But could they have? With 32 more picks to go, it may have been unlikely that Kenny Pickett even makes it out of the first round, let alone survive another twenty picks into the second round until the Steelers had another shot at taking him.
While the list of teams who didn’t need a quarterback had backloaded the end of the first round, such as the Packers, Bills, Chiefs, Patriots and Bengals, there’s always a chance that the Minnesota Vikings or Tampa Bay Buccaneers could’ve stashed Pickett for a year as a successor to Kirk Cousins or Tom Brady.
The Detroit Lions traded back out of the 32nd pick, but could’ve also eyed Pickett with the final selection of the first round.
Any team looking to take a player in round one would be afforded the ability to use a fifth-year option on their pick, which is now critical in this era of skyrocketing quarterback contracts.
Looming between the bushes are the same faces we saw in round one at the top half of round two: the Falcons, the Seahawks (with back-to-back picks at 40 and 41), Giants, and Texans (also twice, at 35 and 44) plus those pesky Lions at 46, Commanders at 47, and the original deemed threat to draft a quarterback, the Saints (who picked yet again at 49).
There’s absolutely no guarantee Pickett is available by the time pick 52 rolls around after these teams who passed on him in round one, already filled other needs.
While Pickett potentially could’ve slid into the second round, the Steelers may have had to leapfrog several other teams to make sure they got him.
Doing so would’ve cost them extra picks – in this draft or the future – rather than just paying the price to make sure they got their guy at 20. The old adage is, if you like your guy, make sure you get him.
Calling Pickett a reach at pick 20 is a fool’s statement, considering the Steelers paid nothing more than their original draft choice to acquire him.
A foolish move would’ve been trading multiple future draft picks to jump into the top five to play the annual quarterback gamble. Typically, the Steelers would never have been in a position to draft a quarterback, let alone have their choice of anyone who was on the board.
As it turns out, the Steelers have far less risk invested in gaining Pickett than other teams have had in the past: such as the Rams move for Goff, the Eagles move for Carson Wentz, or the 49ers trade to get Trey Lance.
If the Pickett play doesn’t pan out, Pittsburgh is hardly damaged by the non-move to select him at 20. And if it does work, then Kevin Colbert will look like a genius… and maybe the pick will look like a draft day blunder to other teams much like when Aaron Rodgers last fell to the Green Bay Packers at pick 24 in 2005.