Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was tough to evaluate in 2019 due in part to a porous offensive line and an unreliable corps of receivers who dropped well-placed passes at a frustrating rate. However, he also suffered through his own mistakes and showed improvement as the season wore on, ultimately becoming one of just five quarterbacks in program history to pass for 3,000 yards. As a result, he settled in the middle of the pack when he was evaluated by Pro Football Focus in its recent ranking of FBS quarterbacks.
The analytics website evaluated and ranked all 130 FBS programs' signal-callers and released the resulting list on Tuesday. Pickett came in at No. 67 overall and No. 6 in the ACC. That was up from No. 84 in the preseason ranking, No. 73 in the midseason ranking and No. 71 in the end-of-season ranking, meaning Pickett’s impressive showing in the Quick Lane Bowl provided him with a late boost.
”Pickett’s stretch of athletic play was something to behold for Pitt fans this season, finishing the final four games of the season with an elite overall grade,” wrote Cam Mellor of PFF. “Three of his four highest-graded outings came over the final four games, and without those, he would have been much further down these rankings.”
”He may have been the only quarterback with at least 500 dropbacks to average fewer than 7.0 yards per pass attempt, but his 36 dropped passes certainly left a lot to be desired this season. Taking that into account, his 75.2 perce adjusted completion percentage makes his season look much better than his 61.5 percent box-score completion number.”
The Oakhurst, New Jersey, native fared well in the context of the ACC, especially based on individual effort. Only Trevor Lawrence of Clemson (No. 2), Sam Howell of North Carolina (No. 10) and Bryce Perkins of Virginia (No. 43) fared better on their own. However, Virginia Tech (No. 50) and Wake Forest (No. 16), which both started multiple quarterbacks in 2019, were ranked ahead of Pickett as well.
Wake Forest's quarterback situation seems poised to decline in 2020, as Jamie Newman left the program to join Georgia. And Bryce Perkins will not return to Virginia next season, as he exhausted his eligibility. Given all that and Pickett's progress over the last year, the Pitt signal-caller should easily rank among the ACC's top five quarterbacks in 2020 if he maintains his level of play, and breaking into the national top 50 is a possibility as well. However, much of that will depend on the play of Pitt's receivers and linemen.