Kenny Pickett won't play in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl for Pittsburgh Panthers, will instead prep for NFL draft

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett said Thursday he will opt out of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and begin preparations for the NFL draft.

In a message posted on social media, Pickett thanked the university, coach Pat Narduzzi and his teammates.

"One of the best moments of my football career was standing on stage with you, the team, and our ACC Championship trophy," he wrote. "I will never forget our victory and everything it took to get us there."

Pickett made the decision to return to Pitt for his senior year to improve his draft stock, but also help his team win a championship. He did both.

Pickett is now rated the No. 1 quarterback on ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper's position rankings after a spectacular season in which he threw for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns to lead the Panthers to their first ACC title. ESPN's Todd McShay has him going 12th to the Steelers in his latest mock draft.

Pickett finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, was the ACC Player of the Year and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award while setting multiple ACC and school records along the way.

Pitt finished the season 11-2 and earned its first New Year's Six selection to the Peach Bowl, where it will face Michigan State on Dec. 30.

Nick Patti and Davis Beville are the top quarterbacks behind Pickett, with Patti the more experienced of the two.

In addition to playing without Pickett, Pitt will be without offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who left for the same job with Nebraska. Michigan State will play without running back Kenneth Walker III, who also announced Thursday he would skip the game and enter the draft.