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Kenny Pickett named top National team quarterback at 2022 Senior Bowl

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett has been in Mobile, Alabama, this week preparing for the Senior Bowl, and during the highly scrutinized practices, he has also been working to solidify his status as the top quarterback available in the upcoming NFL draft.

In the battle for QB1 status, Pickett has given up ground to former Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, who will play for the American team in the Senior Bowl. But on the National team, Pickett has reigned supreme, and on Friday, the defensive players on the team voted the Pitt alum the National team’s top quarterback in a Player of the Week ceremony.

Pickett beat out former Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder and former Nevada quarterback Carson Strong for the honor. With that said, Pickett did not gain an advantage over Willis with the honor, as Willis beat out former North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell and former Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe to win the same distinction from the defensive players on the American team.

This week at practice, Pickett generated plenty of buzz and generally lived up to the hype surrounding him. He kicked off the week with a decent outing on Tuesday, which was the first day of Senior Bowl practices. His performance suffered somewhat on Wednesday, as he played in the rain at Hancock Whitney Stadium, and he drew mixed reviews as a result. But on Thursday, with the day’s events moved to the South Alabama Jaguars’ indoor practice facility, Pickett shined in short-yardage and red-zone situations in seven-on-seven drills, connecting well with former Boise State receiver Khalil Shakir and ex-Rutgers receiver Bo Melton.

All the while, Pickett has been battling concerns over the size of his hands, which arose when he declined to have his hands measured at the start of the Senior Bowl events earlier this week. Pickett declined to take part in that process because he is double-jointed and his thumb extends in an unusual direction. He said that would prevent an accurate measurement, so he plans to have his hands measured at the NFL combine after doing exercises that he hopes will allow for a more accurate measurement.

As for Willis, Pickett’s top competition for QB1 status at this point, his doubters have seized on the quality of competition he faced at Liberty as well as his sub-top-40 finish in passing yards despite a weak schedule. With that in mind, Willis needed to perform well in Mobile to insert himself into the QB1 conversation, and he rose to the occasion this week with solid performances on all three days.

Now, with Pickett and Willis widely considered the two best quarterback prospects in Mobile, the two will square off in the Senior Bowl on Saturday and vie for top honors before moving on to their preparations for the NFL combine, which is set to take place in March.