On Thursday night, two quarterback prospects on the Lions radar will be going against each other at Heinz Field.
The Detroit Lions will come out of their bye in Week 10 to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. But on Thursday night, a game taking place on the same field is going to garner attention from NFL teams.
Heinz Field is course also home to the University of Pittsburgh Panthers (7-2 this season), who are led by quarterback Kenny Pickett and a top-25 team in the country. They will welcome the 5-4 North Carolina Tar Heels, led by quarterback Sam Howell, to town.
Howell has been a popular mock draft pick for the Lions, with their second first-round pick. His stock took an immediate hit early this season with a three-interception season opener. But he has notably added a running element to his game this season (699 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in nine games).
Pickett has put himself on the radar of NFL teams this season, with 3,171 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He is becoming a likely first-round pick, and he’s certainly on Detroit’s radar as a pro-ready prospect and an immediate replacement for Jared Goff in 2022.
Will Lions have people in attendance Thursday night?
According to one report, 38 NFL scouts or executives will be in attendance at Heinz Field Thursday night. The Lions aren’t mentioned among 21 teams scheduled to be represented as of Wednesday. That fits the template started by them not having anyone in-person for last Saturday’s Liberty-Ole Miss game, which featured top quarterback prospects Matt Corral and Malik Willis.
Not having general manager Brad Holmes or any scout on-site in the press box Thursday night is fodder for fan criticism more than it is particularly meaningful. The Lions have certainly done leg work on Pickett and Howell, and they’ve probably had someone at a game or two for each of them without it being noted or reported. There’s a chance someone from the team will be in attendance for the game Thursday night, accomodated at the relative last-minute.
How You Can Watch North Carolina (Howell) at Pitt (Pickett): 7:30 p.m. ET, TV: ESPN