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Kenny Pickett visiting Detroit Lions, evaluating the potential fit

Matt Johnson

The Detroit Lions will have multiple chances to draft a quarterback in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft and top prospect Kenny Pickett is clearly on their radar with a visit scheduled for next week.

Detroit will find itself in a very flexible position when the first round arrives on April 28. Holding both the 2nd and 32nd overall picks, the Lions will have the first crack at taking a signal-caller or they can take a patient approach and wait until the end of Round 1. Given the franchise also holds the 34th pick, it could even move up from 32 to snag a young passer.

  • Kenny Pickett stats (2021): 4,319 passing yards, 42 passing touchdowns, 165.3 QB rating

The Lions aren’t looking for a starting quarterback immediately. Jared Goff played well late in the 2021 season and the coaching staff is sold on him being the starter to begin the 2022 season. However, the franchise is examing potential first-round quarterback prospects.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Pickett is scheduled to meet with the Lions for a pre-draft visit at the team’s headquarters next week. Notably, he’s the only known quarterback who is coming to Detroit for a visit during the pre-draft cycle.

Pickett, a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2021, exploded in his redshirt senior campaign. He led the Pittsburgh Panthers to an 11-2 record in the regular season with an appearance in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl against Michigan State.

He raised some concerns at the NFL Combine with his hand size, which came well below the 9-inch threshold teams historically prefer for starting quarterbacks. However, he is still viewed favorably by evaluators with the positional value expected to make him a first-round pick on April 28.

  • Kenny Picket hand size: 8.5 inches

One thing to keep in mind, Pickett isn’t the only young signal-caller Detroit spoke with this offseason. As Ian Rapoport noted, the Lions met with quarterback Malik Willis at the Senior Bowl.

Why the Detroit Lions shouldn’t draft Kenny Pickett

NFL: Scouting Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Pickett used a dominant 2021 season to vault up draft boards, which might remind some of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. However, Burrow’s talent level puts him far ahead of Pickett when comparing both as draft prospects.

Pittsburgh gave Pickett plenty of chances before his breakout year. From 2018-’20, the 6-foot-3 quarterback appeared in 35 games with the Panthers. During that stretch, he compiled a 38-24 TD-INT ratio and only completed 60.5% of his 1,111 attempts.

There are limitations with Pickett. The NFL player comparisons range from a best-case scenario of Andy Dalton (NFL.com) to more realistic outcomes such as Taylor Heinicke and Sam Darnold (Pro Football Focus). All of that indicates a low-ceiling starting quarterback that an NFL team is looking to find an upgrade over within three years.

He lacks the consistent ability to process what’s in front of him to start immediately. It will take NFL coaches time to help Pickett worth through his process under pressure, improving his feet, movements and decision-making. In addition to some of his bad habits, which are concerning for a quarterback who turns 24 in June, Pickett lacks elite physical tools.

Related: Detroit Lions mock draft 2022

If the Lions are going to replace Goff, it needs to be with someone who can uplift this franchise. The NFC North won’t be won in the coming years with average quarterback play. Either the Detroit Lions need to roll the dice on Malik Wills in Round 1, take a shot on Matt Corral in Day 2 or just wait until the 2023 NFL Draft with elite prospects Bryce Young and CJ Stroud.