Is George Pickens' rising fantasy football stock justified?

Is George Pickens' rising fantasy football stock justified?

Fantasy football player analysis tips and advice

Is George Pickens' rising fantasy football stock justified?

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For whatever reason, some teams around the NFL consistently do a better job than others at identifying (and cultivating) talent at certain position groups. When it comes to receivers, few, if any, do it better than the Pittsburgh Steelers. In recent years, that includes selecting Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster (now with the Kansas City Chiefs). Before that, Antonio Brown was the gold standard for the position.

While the transition from college to the pros can often be difficult for wideouts, the Steelers have seen consistently solid Year 1 production from their recent early-round selections: Johnson caught 59 passes for 680 yards and five TDs as a rookie, Claypool posted a 62-873-9 line in his first season, and Smith-Schuster accounted for 917 yards and seven scores on 58 receptions.

With Smith-Schuster (and now-Dallas Cowboys receiver James Washington) both gone from last year’s roster, the door is open for another rookie to step into a significant role in the person of George Pickens, who was selected with the 52nd overall pick. Pickens has good size, checking in at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and he should start on the outside opposite Johnson while Claypool handles the slot.

Pickens is a tough cover, showing the ability to fight through press coverage and the speed to separate downfield with the ball in flight. He has some juice with the ball in his hands as well. Pickens has drawn positive reviews in camp and caught three passes for 43 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks; he followed that up with two grabs for six yards in the team’s most recent outing.

Of course, there’s more to producing in the NFL than talent, and Pittsburgh’s still-unsettled quarterback situation will factor into Pickens’ outlook for 2022. Veteran Mitch Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett are the primary candidates, though it’s important to note that the Week 1 starter won’t necessarily be the season-long starter, and you have to think Pickett will take the job at some point. While the combo of Trubisky and Pickett is suspect, is it any worse than whatever was left of Ben Roethlisberger last year?

Fantasy football outlook

Although there’s quite a bit to like about Pickens the player, his situation is suboptimal, both with the uncertainty at quarterback, and the presence of three established options in Johnson, Claypool, and tight end Pat Freiermuth. Can the rookie really step into that offense and leapfrog anyone in that group in the pecking order?

Looking back at the Steelers recent history of young wideouts, while all three players mentioned above had good debuts, none of them posted the kind of numbers that demanded weekly attention in fantasy leagues. While injuries can always change the equation, for now Pickens looks like a WR4/WR5 type that could push for WR3 output. Expecting more than that feels optimistic.

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