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Kenny Pickett a top prospect, hands down

Kenny Pickett

MOBILE, Ala. — Kenny Pickett has a confidence about him.

You don't put up the numbers and rack up the wins he did last year without it.

He's also possessed with an awareness of what's going on around him. That's part of the reason he was able to fake-slide and keep going in the ACC title game in Charlotte, and it's also why he kept his hands in his lap behind a podium Tuesday when talking to reporters at the Senior Bowl.

He knows he's going to get asked about the size of his hands, and he's not offering any ammunition.

"Yeah, I mean whenever the media catches onto something, you guys will run that thing into the ground until you can't anymore," Pickett said. "So I think it's funny. At this point, it is what it is. Just got to take it in stride and move on."

There have been reports that Pickett's hands measure significantly smaller than 9 inches across (from pinkie to thumb, across the palm), which is considered a baseline for most people who throw footballs in exchange for money.

Pickett didn't get his measured here (all the other quarterbacks did), saying he had a double-jointed thumb which prevents an accurate measurement, and he's working on exercises that he hopes will give a true reading at the Scouting Combine in March.

"I was born this way," he said with a grin when asked about it at another point in the 10-minute press conference. "I just throw the football. I don't know if it's an advantage or it isn't. I just know I can throw with it, so it's all good."

Pickett certainly put up more than a handful of numbers last year, passing for 4,319 yards, with 42 touchdowns and nine interceptions, leading his Pittsburgh team to the ACC Championship in Charlotte. He did it while wearing gloves on each hand, and as he said earlier this week, he did it in conditions that aren't always friendly to passers.

"The good news is that I play in Pittsburgh," he said. "Anyone that's been to Pittsburgh knows it's not the nicest place to play in October, November."

While the hand size debate creates good offseason fodder, Pickett will be a first-round pick regardless. It's just a matter of how early in the first round.

The Panthers have a need at the position, and general manager Scott Fitterer said earlier this week the economics of roster-building almost force you to consider a quarterback if you think he can be a player who can lead you to the playoffs. That's not the same as saying he's picking a quarterback, because they passed on a couple last year in the draft (Justin Fields, Mac Jones) after deciding they preferred other options. They also have enough needs to justify using the sixth overall pick in other ways.

But they also have history with Pickett.

When Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was at Temple, Pickett initially committed to play for him, though Pickett would ultimately change his mind and go to Pitt. Rhule then took the Baylor job, making it a moot point.

"Yeah, it was a great time for Temple football," said Pickett, who grew up in New Jersey. "I'm close to Philly, like an hour and 15 (minutes), so I loved the proximity to my house. They were trending upward, and I knew some bigger schools would be calling, and he ended up leaving about a month after I decommitted, so I really wanted to see the other schools too that I was getting recruited by. I didn't think it was right to be visiting other schools while committed to one. So each party kind of knew what was going to happen at the end of the day, and I'm glad I had the chance to have those interactions with coach Rhule."

Still, he said he had a "great relationship" with Rhule based on the recruiting process.

"Just because he's a great person," Pickett said. "It comes down to people first in this business. I trust him. Talking to all the players he coached prior to when I was thinking about committing, that's what they all talked about what a great guy he is and how hard they played for him."

Kenny Pickett

By going to Pittsburgh and staying an extra year, the 23-year-old Pickett made himself perhaps the first quarterback in this year's class. Even if he's not a Joe Burrow-like prospect, he had a similar senior-year burst, and has impressed coaches here with his bearing. He has a good arm, not a great one, but is an accurate passer with good instincts, and that natural sense of leadership.

"Pickett, he's been good," said Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who is overseeing the National team and Pickett this week. "He's been good in the room; he's obviously putting in the work."

He also has the benefit of coming from a pro-style offense at Pitt, which could make his transition to the NFL easier. Mostly, he's shown the knack for making plays, as evidenced by the fake-slide touchdown in Charlotte, which the NCAA quickly outlawed. But at the time, there was a play there, and Pickett made it.

"Nah, I don't think you can practice something like that and go to a championship game and try to execute it," he said. "It was just kind of a natural thing. Can't really tell you why I did it or how I did it; it just kind of came into place."

Now, he's in the process of convincing teams he's worth a high pick. He had an informal meeting with some Panthers scouts already, and will sit down for a longer interview with them later in the week, where he'll be able to make his case to be their first-rounder.

"The strategy is to be myself, I think," Pickett said of the interviews here. "At the end of the day, they want to hear you as a person first, and asking a lot of personal questions and getting into the offense and showing them your football IQ. Really, it's just be myself, and be very detailed in my descriptions.

"The biggest thing (for me) is consistency. Everyone wants to say that last season was kind of a flash in the pan deal, but I think if you play at a high level for 13 games, I don't think that's by luck. So I want to come down here and show how consistent I am, and that I can play at a high level."

View practice photos of college prospects during Wednesday's rainy practice at the Senior Bowl.

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