Georgia wide receiver George Pickens looked like a future first round draft pick about a year ago. Then he suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact drill in Georgia’s spring practices. It was an incredibly unfortunate turn of events that nearly derailed the career of a very promising wide receiver prospect.
Pickens was looking to build off of a strong junior season and has the athletic traits to appeal to most NFL offenses. He has good size, a big catch radius, enough speed, and fantastic toughness. That last trait, toughness, Pickens showed in excess over the course of his senior year. He could have sat out the year in its entirety and just prepared for the 2022 NFL draft, but instead he worked to get back on the field and played a role in Georgia’s run to the National Championship game.
The New York Giants need all the help they can get on the offensive side of the ball. Could Pickens’ unfortunate turn make him a steal for the Giants on the second day of the draft?
Prospect: George Pickens (1)
Games Watched: vs. Baylor (2019), vs. Missouri (2020), vs. Cincinnati (2021 - Chick-fil-A Bowl), vs. Alabama (2022)
Red Flags: ACL (spring 2021)
Games Played: 24
Yards (YPC): 1,347 (15.0 per catch)
Games Played: 4
Yards (YPC): 107 (21.4 per catch)
Best: Competitive toughness, athleticism, ball skills, blocking
Worst: Explosiveness, size, hand size
Projection: A starting wide receiver with scheme and positional diversity.
George Pickens is a tall, long, competitive, athletic, and versatile receiver from the University of Georgia.
Pickens sports a lean frame at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds with 32 ⅜ inch arms, but play strength doesn’t seem to be a problem for him. Pickens lines up both on the line of scrimmage as an “X” receiver and off the line of scrimmage as a flanker, and is able to produce from both positions. He has an efficient, sudden release off the line of scrimmage, getting into his routes with the minimum of wasted motion. He has the strength to play through contact at the line of scrimmage as well as enough quickness to freeze defenders with fakes before getting into his routes.
Pickens is a smart route runner who is able to use every phase of the route to his advantage. He has enough agility to make double-moves effective, and the long speed to force defenders to respect his vertical routes. Pickens does a good job of pressing his routes vertically, and is able to draw defensive pass interference calls on physical defenders down the field.
Pickens is a highly competitive player which shows itself in several areas of his game. He routinely fights for the ball in contested catch situations, and has the ability to come down with high-difficulty, acrobatic catches. Pickens shows the ability to locate, track, and adjust to the ball down the field, and has very good body control to contort and maximize his catch radius. He is capable of high-pointing the ball over leaping defenders as well as laying out to secure overthrown vertical passes. Pickens generally shows strong hands when securing the ball as he goes to the ground.
Pickens also stands out as a very good blocking receiver. He plays much stronger than his build would suggest, and is able to sustain his blocks against most defensive backs. Pickens, again, shows great competitive toughness as a blocker and also blocks with technique that should be the envy of some offensive linemen in this draft class. He generally places his hands well, seeking his opponent’s chest plate, striking hard, playing with good leverage, and driving the defender whenever he is able.
Pickens’ relative lack of mass can show up in certain situations, most notably when he isn’t able to play with leverage – both as a blocker and in jump ball situations when physics takes over. Teams might also be concerned with Pickens’ hand size, measuring just 8 ¾ inches. He does suffer occasional concentration drops, and his hands might fall below some teams’ thresholds for the position.
Teams will want to pay close attention to Pickens’ medical reports. He tore his ACL in Georgia’s 2021 spring practices, giving him a definite injury red flag. He was able to return for Georgia’s National Championship run and work out at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, so he should be available for the start of the off-season program. However, teams will likely exercise caution and make sure Pickens has suffered no lasting effects and his long-term prognosis is good.
Overall Grade: 7.9
George Pickens projects as a starting wide receiver with scheme versatility at the NFL level.
He has enough quickness and agility to execute in a timing-based scheme, and the size and long speed to be a vertical threat for more wide-open passing games. Pickens is also a very good blocker on the perimeter, which should appeal to teams that use outside zone running schemes or teams that make frequent use of jet sweeps, end-arounds, or screen plays.
Pickens has the potential to be a productive receiver as soon as he steps on the football field and could push for a starting job early in his career – potentially even as a rookie.
Pickens is a confident and tough player, who brings a lot of swagger to the field. His play demeanor might not be for every team, though some teams might find themselves drawn to the edge with which he plays.
Pickens isn’t without concerns, with the long-term health of his knee being chief among them. Some teams might also grade him harshly due to his hand size, linking his occasional drops to concerns about playing in bad weather. Each team will have to consider their thresholds for the position against Pickens’ tape and come to their own conclusions.