Sports

NFL Draft 2022: What big-play Georgia WR George Pickens brings to the Steelers

George Pickens, from the moment he committed to Georgia and through the lead-up to the NFL Draft, reminded anyone who has watched this program of another receiver: AJ Green.

Both tall. Both capable of astounding catches. Both never quite stayed on the field long enough to put up the numbers they could have. Green still went on to be the fourth overall pick in 2011 and has lasted in the NFL for more than a decade.

“I feel like I can do pretty much the same thing,” said Pickens, selected 52nd overall (second round) by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pickens was the most dynamic Georgia receiver since Green, though with a different personality: Green was quiet, Pickens more outgoing, sometimes to his detriment. At various times he was suspended or admonished for acts like fighting a Georgia Tech cornerback and squirting an opponent with a water bottle.

But Pickens did one thing Green did not: He left Georgia with a national championship ring. And the fact Pickens stuck around for it helped change the narrative on his college career, and could offer encouragement about his upcoming pro career.

In the spring before his junior year, Pickens tore his ACL. That could have been when he called it a career at Georgia, going away to rehab, but instead he remained with the team, remained in classes, and worked to return at the end of the season. It was only in a limited capacity, still not at full strength, but Pickens still made a couple long catches, including a deep ball in the national championship game, that showed what he still can do.

Dane Brugler on George Pickens (No. 8 WR, No. 47 overall prospect in The Beast)

A two-year starter at Georgia, Pickens was the X receiver in offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s balanced scheme. Shortly after he enrolled, Bulldogs’ coaches said he was the most talented receiver on the roster, and he didn’t disappoint (led the team in receiving in 2019 with several freshman receiving records), but his past two seasons were marred by injuries, most notably his 2021 ACL tear.

Pickens is a balanced athlete, with fluidity at the stem and the wheels to win vertically, skillfully tracking the deep ball. While his competitiveness is a plus, he lacks discipline in several areas of the position and lost a year of on-field development because of his injury. Overall, Pickens has a discount sticker on him after missing most of the 2021 season, but he is a graceful athlete with outstanding ball-tracking and 50-50 finishing skills. He has WR1 traits and potential if he returns to pre-injury form and continues to refine his routes.

Top College Highlight

Pickens seemed to make every catch appear spectacular, with a flair for dramatic dives and sideline catches. But it was a catch in a Georgia scrimmage that was probably the most memorable: His freshman season, before he’d played in a real game or had been given his jersey number, he made a one-handed sideline catch that was leaked onto social media and went viral.

Mean Moment

It was after the most prolific game of Pickens’ career at Georgia — the 2020 Sugar Bowl, when he had 12 catches for 175 yards against Baylor — and a reporter asked Pickens if he had grown up that freshman season. Before he could answer, then-Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm interjected: “Yes.” Head coach Kirby Smart also jumped in: “He’s still got growing to do.” And when a reporter followed up by asking Pickens to expound on the point, Smart again jumped in: “Careful, George.” It was a lighthearted exchange, and it did seem that Pickens matured during his time at Georgia, but he’s also a receiver in the Chad Johnson-Terrell Owens mold: He brings personality to the field.

What you may have missed

Pickens, when asked about the comparison to AJ Green, pointed out that Green had Matt Stafford throwing him early in his Georgia career. It was only Green’s freshman season (2008), but the implied point may have been that Pickens spent his three years catching passes from Fromm, JT Daniels and Stetson Bennett, three good college quarterbacks, but put him in an NFL offense with the right quarterback , and who knows what you may get.

(Top photo: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button