2022 NFL Draft First Look: George Pickens

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George Pickens is a fascinating case study. The rising junior stood out in his freshman and sophomore seasons at the University of Georgia, displaying elite talent marked by his 6’3” frame and exceptional contested catch ability. However, the talented receiver suffered an ACL injury in the spring, which will affect his decision on whether or not to declare for the 2022 NFL draft. Whether he declares for the draft or decides to keep building on his draft stock, the body of work on Pickens gives us a look at how he would fit into the next level. 

 

Strengths: Pickens has a large catch radius due to his frame and exceptional contested catch ability, and he consistently uses this to his advantage whenever possible. The rising junior is an excellent bad pass-catcher, giving his quarterback a safety blanket that does not require the ball to be placed in the perfect spot for him to come down with it. He displays excellent body control on the sidelines and in the end zone. He shows good sideline awareness, which allows him to get his feet in bounds on sideline throws and ensure that he scores in the red zone, where there is a smaller margin for error. The tape is full of passes where Pickens has to make a last-second effort to contort his body to make a catch, which he does very nicely. Pickens is exceptionally hard to cover on the boundaries. He is a long strider who only needs a bit of space vertically to be a threat, which opens up many underneath opportunities, specifically on comeback routes. Cornerbacks respect his threat vertically, which consistently gives him soft coverage underneath, and he is adept at finding holes in zone coverage this way.

 

Weaknesses: Pickens has below-average speed, and it shows. He does not separate as well on routes where he must use quickness, agility, and speed to beat the defense. His lack of polish in route running shows up on his underneath routes (e.g. crossing routes), and he is also unable to use head fakes and leverage to his advantage. He tends to rely on his big frame to make the play. He is more effective against zone coverage, where he can just use his frame and physicality instead of having to rely on quickness, agility, or speed to separate. Thus, he would not be a good fit for a scheme reliant on precise routes and timing. 

 

Bottom Line: Pickens is a very talented receiver with premier physical tools that stand out on tape. He is at his best on the boundaries and working the sidelines. Pickens should be a late first-round pick, but he will have to work on his separation ability using good route running techniques. At the NFL level, he will not be able to rely purely on talent and frame to win in the red zone and on the outside. He will have to mix in some polish to his route running so that he can win in more ways. His talent and physical tools stand out at the college level, but he could become one-dimensional if he does not work on his route running in the slot and middle of the field. Pickens will get his touchdowns and deep/sideline passes in the NFL, which will be the foundation of his production. If he wants to consistently be an elite receiver in the NFL, he will have to include some polish to his game overall.

GAMES WATCHED: Cincinnati 2020, Missouri 2020, Mississippi State 2020, Baylor 2020, Texas A&M 2019, LSU 2019, Florida 2019

Edited By: Rupayan “Abs” Samanta.

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