Here is a very well researched and well written article by our frequent commenter “Michelangelo”
“I think I could describe the perfect quarterback. Take a little piece of everybody. Take John Elway’s arm, Dan Marino’s release, maybe Troy Aikman’s drop-back, Brett Favre’s scrambling ability, Joe Montana’s two-minute poise and, naturally, my speed.” – Peyton Manning
There has been a lot of hype this spring around Kenny Pickett, and we all know why. After ten games of mostly inept quarterback play last season (with the exception of Rice…) Pickett came in and gave us a tantalizingly short glimpse of what competent quarterback play looked like. And thus the hype train began.
The question is, as a sophomore and a first year starter, what is Kenny Pickett’s ceiling? Sure, everyone is saying the right things on the Southside. Teddy Bridgewater comparisons have been made. But I am a believer in facts, not coachspeak, and right now the only facts we have are history. So let’s look back at the stats of young first-year Pitt quarterbacks and see if we can get a sense for what Pickett might do in 2018.
But before we dive into these stats, I would like to point out a couple of things:
- Dan Marino played in a different era. We all know he’s a legend and the best quarterback on the page, so I don’t want to hear anything about that.
- On the opposite side of the coin we all know that Tyler Palko played under Walt Harris who is a noted passing game guru, and so it’s probably unfair to think that Kenny will replicate these numbers in what appears to be shaping up as a run-first offense in 2018.
Let’s move on to the observations.
- First of all it’s clear that the two sophomore quarterbacks on the page were statistically better than the freshman. That is a good sign.
- Second, it’s a pretty good bet that Pickett will throw no more than 16 touchdowns. The only person to do that was Palko and I’ve already pointed out that he played in pass-first system. Still 16 TD’s is nearly a 50% improvement over last year, and equates to about +3 PPG, so I would take that.
- There is a *chance* that KP throws 20+ TD’s. Wouldn’t that be nice? The Data suggests there is about a 20% chance that happens.
- Pickett will probably throw 8-9 interceptions. With the exception of Alex “Gunslinger” Van Pelt, 8-9 int’s is a pretty consistent average here. Yes, Yes I know that Narduzzi said that Pickett hasn’t thrown an interception all camp, but lets be real here. That’s camp, and that’s Pat talking. Besides nobody has thrown less than 7 int’s in the last 39 years.
- Yards Per Attempt (Y/A) will probably finish around 7.4 – 7.5. Lot of consistency here throughout history. However Kenny’s Adjusted Yards Per Attempt (AY/A on the chart. This stat takes TD’s and INT’s into account) will probably be a tick higher. Notice how the Sophomore Adjusted Yards per Attempt is higher than the Freshman number by more than half a yard. Another good sign.
- Lastly (and this is somewhat dependent on system and playcalling) the data predicts Pickett will throw for somewhere between 2600 – 2900 yards. If he can finish at the higher end of this range, that would be a slight uptick from last year. Of course if you factor the Rice game out of 2017 Kenny’s yardage total would be a nice increase.
So based on all of that I’d say it’s a pretty good bet that Kenny posts a stat line of 2700 yds, 16 TD’s and 7 ints, with a rating of around 136. That’s not a bad line for a first year quarterback, and it’s an improvement over 2017. If the defense plays well, and the running game is working, it should be enough for 7 wins, maybe 8.
Of course there is always the chance that Kenny is a generational quarterback. It’s a slim chance (like less than 1%), but lightning strikes do happen. And to that end, I’ll leave you with Teddy Bridgewater’s freshman and sophomore seasons… enjoy.
Editor’s Note: Here are the passing stats for us last season… just about anything is an improvement.