University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett reminds one AFC executive of Johnny Manziel on the field.
“He’s a good version of Johnny Football — better frame, head on shoulders and arm, and he’s a better leader,” the executive told Sports Illustrated.
The comparison was interesting since Manziel’s NFL career lasted two seasons and eight starts with the Browns before off-field controversies led to the downfall of his pro career.
Manziel, a former star quarterback at Texas A&M, won the Heisman Trophy in 2012. He was selected 22nd overall by the Browns in the 2014 NFL Draft.
While there is no clear frontrunner to be the top quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class, Pickett has impressed NFL scouts throughout his senior campaign at Pitt, throwing for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and just one interception.
He finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, which went to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
“Athletic, gutsy… Kind of hit the scene hard out of nowhere like [Joe] Burrow and balled out,” the executive told Sports Illustrated about Pickett. “Love the kid. He’s got the it factor. Kid has balls… We have a ways to go, but definitely if the draft was today, he would be [the first quarterback] taken.”
The 23-year-old Pickett led Pitt to its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a win over Wake Forest on Dec. 4 — when he pulled off a fake slide on a 58-yard touchdown run.
The play led to the NCAA banning the move, and Pickett responded on Twitter, writing, “Changed the game!”
Pickett will showcase his play-calling abilities next at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 30, when the Panthers (11-2) play Michigan State (10-2) in Atlanta.
Manziel was cut after the 2015 season, lasting just two years in the NFL. He spent time in the CFL and the defunct Alliance of American Football before playing this year for the Zappers of the Fan Controlled Football league.