Former Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver George Pickens appeared destined for a first-round draft placement after his SEC All-Freshman Team breakout in 2019. The road since hasn’t been entirely smooth, however, for the Hoover, Ala., native.
In 2020, Pickens started all eight contests in the pandemic-abbreviated season, scoring six times. Inconsistencies in his game started to show, and the shortened year cost him four games of learning experience.
Height: 6-foot-3 1/4
Weight: 195 pounds
40 time: 4.47 seconds
Then came the spring of 2021 when Pickens tore an anterior cruciate ligament in spring practice. Surprisingly, he returned for the final four games of the season, but he was barely utilized as the team had effectively moved on, which made his decision to declare more understandable.
Table: George Pickens NCAA stats (2019-21)
*includes postseason/bowl games
Even though his four-game return saw just a handful of plays go Pickens’ way, he made his presence felt in the national championship game by snagging a 52-yarder on a diving effort.
- Reliable catcher with late hands who routinely snatches the ball away from his body
- Among the strongest hands in the draft class, despite being really small mitts at 8 3/4 inches — by far the lowest pinkie-to-thumb spread of all receivers in contention for going in the first round
- Quality downfield speed and above-average quickness for his size
- Rather bendy for 6-foot-3 and change — able to save passes from hitting the turf
- Large catch radius and vertical leaping ability make for a dangerous weapon in the red zone
- Body control in the air and spatial awareness near the boundary demand tough coverage by smaller corners
- Does an excellent job driving for comeback routes and adjusting to back-shoulder throws
- Recovered from a torn ACL suffered in the spring of 2021 to play the final four games of the season
- Proved to be a quick learner as he burst onto the scene as a true freshman
Also see: 2022 NFL Draft Central
- Fairly inexperienced — only 12 games played the last two seasons due to COVID shortening the 2020 campaign and the torn ACL last year
- Lacks versatility — unlikely to play much from the slot
- Lean frame with below-average functional strength — gets jammed easily at the line by large cornerbacks and gets knocked off his route too much
- Struggles as a blocker in the running game — questionable as to whether he can add muscle and maintain his speed
- Tends to allow defenders to get too close to the ball in 50/50 situations — needs to improve his technique for boxing out
- Most of his big plays came with far more separation than he is bound to generate in the pros
Fantasy football outlook
It’s quite unlikely we see Pickens go in the first round, but he should be among the top options in the early second stanza. The height-speed combination will endear him to some team, even if his limitations suggest he should be closer to a Round 3 selection.
The Green Bay Packers may be in play at the end of the first for a Marquez Valdes-Scantling replacement, although Pickens’ leaky blocking skills could work against him as this system requires wideouts to block with regularity.
With the seventh pick in Round 2, Chicago jumps out after losing Allen Robinson in free agency
Other teams that make more sense than not: Detroit, the New York Jets, Houston Texans, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington. He’ll be a better fit for a team that emphasizes play-action passing, such as the Browns or Lions. Given positional need and familiarity, the Falcons should be a strong contender for selecting Pickens.
His season-long fantasy value shouldn’t be more than depth material as a rook, but there’s far more long-term viability to become a WR3 or even sneak into the No. 2 conversation, depending upon his landing spot.