Around this time last year, Pitt got great news in the form of multiple star players announcing they would return for the 2020 season despite the likelihood of going in the early rounds of the NFL draft. That brought back Paris Ford, Patrick Jones II and Jaylen Twyman, even though Ford and Twyman later opted out. Now, it seems Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has not ruled out the possibility of a 2021 return.
Pickett, a senior in the midst of one of the best seasons of his collegiate career, issued a succinct response to a claim that he was entering the 2021 NFL draft, saying in a tweet, “Making decision after season.”
While Pickett offered no guarantee that he would return next season, he did put a dent in the presumption that he would definitely test the waters at the professional level after the conclusion of the season. And that has to be viewed as a positive for a Pitt offense that has been wholly reliant on him so far this year.
This season, Pickett has thrown for 1,599 yards and eight touchdowns and run for 132 yards and six touchdowns. He has also been more accurate than ever, as he has completed 62.3 percent of his passes despite numerous drops by receivers. With him under center, Pitt has averaged 33.2 points per game and gone 4-2. During his two games out with an ankle injury, Pitt averaged 11.0 points and went 0-2.
As a result of his outstanding play, Pickett has drawn rave reviews from Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi and Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout. Both expect him to get drafted and play in the NFL. Pickett is also one of 15 senior quarterbacks in the country currently up for the Golden Arm Award. So his skill and ability are highly regarded, and a return next season would have a major positive impact on Pitt.
With that said, Pickett will have much to weigh by the season’s end, as his stock will continue to rise if he keeps producing at his current pace. At the moment, Pickett is ranked as the 198th overall prospect who could be available in the upcoming NFL draft by the Draft Network. He is also not listed among the top nine quarterback prospects or the top 130 overall prospects in the 2021 NFL draft in the CBS ranking. So there is room for him to rise, and another year at Pitt could benefit him.
The reason Pickett could return in 2021 after starting under center for the Panthers since late in the 2017 season is that the NCAA is offering an additional year of eligibility to all Division I athletes who play fall sports. So even if his eligibility was exhausted after this season, he would be granted another year.
Pitt has three games remaining on its regular-season schedule, with the finale against Georgia Tech slated for Dec. 12. The team is also likely to play in a bowl game at some point in December after the conclusion of the season, meaning a decision from Pickett on his future may not come for several weeks.