George Pickens - WR - Georgia
Welcome to the rookie profile for George Pickens.
Pickens made a good case through two years at Georgia to be considered as one of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he suffered an ACL injury during the 2021 offseason and missed all but the SEC Championship and two playoff games on Georgia’s National Championship run. The question is: if Pickens were to play the 2022 season, would he have been considered on the same level as Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Treylon Burks, etc. in this draft class?
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 200 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.89s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: DNP
George Pickens committed to the Georgia Bulldogs as a five-star wide receiver and top five at his position. He made an immediate impact and became the Bulldogs’ leading wide receiver as a true freshman with 727 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. The following year, 2020, Pickens was a yard behind Kearis Jackson as the Bulldogs’ leading receiver despite playing 2 fewer games in an already COVID shortened season. This season really started some of the off-field concerns surrounding Pickens. He was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the Tennessee game for spraying water on quarterback Guarantano on the Georgia sideline. Reportedly, he was also suspended for a violation of team rules. And in the game against Georgia Tech before the SEC Championship game, Pickens was ejected for fighting and subsequently suspended for the first half of the game.
Despite all of the concerns, the talent and raw tools were there. He hoped to follow the straight and narrow and continue his ascension as a top receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft Class his senior year. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL during the spring before the season started. He was able to make his way back for the SEC Championship game against Alabama, and the following two playoff games on the way to Georgia’s National Championship. Even though he wasn’t a big part of the final three Georgia games, he believed he proved his health enough to secure solid draft capital in the upcoming draft. He tested pretty well at the combine with a 4.47 40-yard dash (74th percentile) and his testing numbers accumulated a 102.9 Speed Score (77th percentile) and 121.2 Burst Score (49th percentile).
Ball skills stick out for George Pickens. He has an incredible contested catch ability paired with a big catch radius giving his quarterback plenty of space to put the ball. He can make the routine catches or catches through contact, boasting the 2nd lowest drop rate in the SEC since 2019. He provided a solid deep threat for the Bulldogs with good speed and really good ball tracking ability.
As a route runner, Pickens has the tools to build on at the next level. He has impressive start/stop ability that can be a good foundation for building on his breaks and release. He has a limited release package at the line of scrimmage, but those moves can be effective with his short-area quickness before it becomes too predictable for top competition DBs.
As mentioned previously, his release at the line of scrimmage can become predictable. Against top DBs he faced, he struggled to get off the line of scrimmage against press and couldn’t fight through physical coverage within his routes. Route running will be a big area of focus for improvement as he needs to add to his release package both at the line of scrimmage and within his breaks. He struggles to separate, which hasn’t been a massive issue thanks to his ball skills. But at the next level, he needs to take the next step forward, which he might have been able to do with a fully healthy season. After the catch, Pickens doesn’t bring too much to the table. He can get what’s in front of him, but rarely does much more than that with the ball in his hands. Even when he gets deep separation, he tends to struggle to maintain that separation. Finally, the character concerns mentioned in the Notable Headlines section cause a flag of caution. His coaches have even been outspoken about his discipline in the past.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 2
George Pickens clearly has plenty of potential as he was considered one of the top wide receivers in this class before the 2021 season. He has the raw skills and potential to be a force at the next level, but with the off-field concerns and amount of projecting/development it takes to get him there, he’s clearly under the top tier of wide receivers in this class. With both Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, two of the best wide receivers in the game, leaving Green Bay and Kansas City respectively, George Pickens could be the perfect upside play. Both teams still have needs that they could address in the 1st round and Pickens could be a nice consultation prize in the 2nd. Both teams also have multiple first-round picks if they felt strongly enough about Pickens to be their future WR1. Additionally, the Detriot Lions are another team in need of a true alpha wide receiver. The Lions also have the benefit of being in no rush for an immediate impact player in case Pickens does need a year to develop into what we think his potential entails.
Post Draft Analysis
Pittsburgh Steelers- Round 2, Pick 20
For the first time in a few years, the Pittsburgh Steelers were lacking true wide receiver depth. They have Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool headlining their wide receiving core, but behind those two, there was very little depth. While there was a clear need for additional wide receivers, it came as a bit of a surprise that the Steelers elected to pick up another one in the second round. The Steelers may be looking ahead to the future with this pick since Diontae Johnson’s contract expires at the end of the upcoming season and Claypool’s contract expires following the 2023 season. Pickens has the opportunity to impress this year and potentially take over for one of the incumbent starters. Pittsburgh is seldom to hand out high-end wide receiver contracts which is most likely in the future for Diontae Johnson.
Despite the timeline making sense, it is also a bit confusing because none of their assumed starters Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and George Pickens work primarily in the slot. Johnson profiles the most to move into the slot but has rarely been used in that role throughout his NFL career. That makes things a bit dicey for Pickens to get early playing time unless it’s in relief for Claypool or Johnson. Especially with their fourth-round receiver Calvin Austin profiling as an explosive slot wide receiver, increasing the competition to consistently get on the field for Pickens.
George Pickens profiles as an alpha wide receiver with his size and usage at Georgia. His path to consistent playing time outside of injury looks bleak, to say the least. Not to mention the Steelers will be relying on either Mitch Trubisky, who has had an up and down career thus far, or first-round rookie Kenny Pickett. Arguably the quarterback situation can’t be much worse than what Ben Roethlisburger was in 2021. Still, Pickens most likely won’t be a fantasy contributor in year one with the competition to get on the field, target competition once on the field, and assumed quarterback growing pains. That being said, there is an opportunity for him next year if he impresses this year. Diontae Johnson’s contract is up at the end of the season and the Claypool’s contract is up following the 2023 season. There is a scenario where they let Johnson walk in favor of Pickens on a cheaper contract if Pickens does mature and develop as a wide receiver. In dynasty, he is a good home run swing at the end of the first or top of the second round of rookie drafts in a somewhat shallow class. In redraft, it’s most likely the safest bet to not take a swing on Pickens this year.
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Image Credit: Robert Scheer – USA TODAY Sports