Steelers' Kenny Pickett would be fifth-best QB in this year's draft class, says ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

JOE RUTTER | Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Kenny Pickett was the first — and only — quarterback taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft when the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed him with the No. 20 overall pick.

Had Pickett been part of this year’s deeper crop of quarterbacks, he still would fall in line as a mid-first-round pick. He just wouldn’t be among the first few quarterbacks to go off the board.

That is the opinion of ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who, in a conference call with media members Tuesday, was asked where Pickett would rank among this year’s passers.

“If he were in this draft, he’d probably be in the fifth spot, solidly behind that top group,” Kiper said.

In his latest mock draft that was released Monday, Kiper projected four quarterbacks being taken among the top five picks. They were Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud going first to Carolina, Alabama’s Bryce Young second to Houston, Kentucky’s Will Levis third to Indianapolis (as the result of a mock trade with Arizona) and Florida’s Anthony Richardson fifth to Seattle.

“Some would even say (Pickett) would be in there with Levis,” Kiper said of the former Penn State quarterback who spent his final two seasons at Kentucky. “Maybe some people would argue he’d be ahead of Levis. I would say he’d still be in that first round, certainly the fifth quarterback taken with four guys potentially going in the top five.

“Pickett would be right around where he was (in 2022).”

Kiper didn’t have a quarterback outside the quartet of Stroud, Young, Levis and Richardson going in the first-round this year.

Not only was Pickett the only quarterback taken in the opening round a year ago, he was the only one selected until the middle of the third, a span of 73 picks.

Pickett’s 12 starts were the most of any rookie passer, and he helped engineer three fourth-quarter comebacks and four game-winning drives as the Steelers won seven of their final nine games to finish 9-8.