From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a wide receiver prospect that came to Athens as a top recruit and flashed top-tier talent, but a spring knee injury has left his draft stock in question heading into the 2022 NFL Draft.
#1 George Pickens, WR, Georgia (Jr.) – 6032, 195 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|George Pickens||6032/195||8 3/4||32 3/8||77 3/8|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has great size and length for the position
— Has a long, angular frame with the wingspan to snag passes outside of his framework and reach up for jump balls
— A good athlete having burst and acceleration to pull away from defenders and challenge vertically
— Explosive in terms of his ability to leap up into the air to win contested catches
— Physical player that can battle at the catch point with defensive backs and play through contact
— Aggressive blocker that looks to bully smaller defenders with a strong punch
— Does a good job leveraging his breaks when working vertically on corners to get into their frames before breaking out into his route
— Smooth glider in space that has some wiggle after the catch for his size
— Has great focus on the football in the air, coming down with some impressive catches along the sideline or in the back of the end zone
— Has the body control while in the air along with the frame to make some crazy circus catches
— Reliable hands that normally catch whatever is in his reach
— Has aligned mostly outside on the perimeter, but has some usage out of the slot on tape
— Could stand to add a little more bulk and functional mass to his frame
— Isn’t going to win in a footrace (4.73 reported 40 in high school) and has more buildup speed rather than dynamic open-field speed
— Isn’t terribly nuanced as a route runner, needing to be sharper in and out of his cuts
— Burst forward off the ball seems to be lacking
— Questions remain how much athleticism he may have lost due to the ACL injury
— Would like to see him use his hands more against press coverage to get off the jam and effectively stack DBs
— Junior prospect from Hoover, AL
— Consensus five-star prospect and top five WR recruit, selected to play at the 2019 Under Armour All-American Game
— Older brother Chris Humes played collegiately at Arkansas State and is currently on the CFL’s Winnipeg Bombers
— Played in all 14 games as a true freshman in 2019 and finished the season with 49 catches for 727 yards (14.8 YPR) and eight TDs
— A starter in all eight games in which he played as a sophomore in 2020 and posted 36 catches for 513 yards (14.3 YPR) and six TDs
—Suffered a torn ACL in 2021 spring practice, electing to have surgery, but managed to get back for the Bulldogs title run
— Appeared in four games for his junior campaign after battling back, catching five passes for 107 yards (21.4 YPR) which included the final game of the regular season and the postseason run which led to a National Championship
— Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC Team in 2019
— Housing Management & Policy major and recipient of the A.J. Green Family Football Scholarship
George Pickens from Georgia is one of the most interesting prospects in this draft class for several reasons. He burst onto the scene in Athens as a true freshman and consensus five-star prospect, being nominated as a Freshman All-SEC member for his immediate contributions on the field. His production went down as a sophomore, partially due to constant changes at the QB position during the season and the focus on running the football and spreading the wealth in the passing game. Pickens seemed destined to dominate as a junior as a projected first-round pick heading into the spring, but an ACL injury in spring camp put those dreams on hold for the talented wide receiver.
Remarkably, Pickens battled back from tearing the ACL in late March to getting back onto the field for the Dawgs in December in attempt to give the offense a boost during the team’s title run. While Pickens couldn’t run his full allotment of snaps, he did manage to make an impact on the biggest stage as you can see on this long bomb Pickens hauls in on the diving catch attempt. Pickens gets an inside release on the CB and gets right into him before breaking back to the middle of the field, getting parallel with the turf to snag the ball with outstretched hands while securing the catch to survive the ground.
Pickens displayed not only the guts to come back as soon as he did from the knee injury to help his team win a National Championship, but his also showcased his physicality and toughness to do whatever his team asked of him in the given moment. Pickens is known to have a fiery attitude, but he is a good teammate willing to block and serve as a decoy to open up his teammate’s underneath. We see Pickens’s physicality on this rep against #30 Daxton Hill, exploding into him off the LOS on the run play, knocking the defender onto his back with the vicious block. Pickens can be more consistent as a blocker on the outside, but the traits and demeanor are there
When going back through Pickens’ tape from previous seasons, you see a jump ball savant that plays with the body control and spatial awareness to come down with some absurd catches in coverage. His length, leaping ability, and ability to concentrate on the football while in the air make him a legitimate weapon on the outside on possession downs as well as in the red zone. Check out this grab against Missouri where Pickens gets an outside release, but must come back to the football, elevating up and snagging it on top of the defender’s head, having the wherewithal to come down with his feet in-bounds while the defender tries to knock the ball out.
Here’s another example from the same game of Pickens high pointing the football down the field, contorting his body to turn and make the catch through contact and try and pick up extra yards after the catch.
His concentration and focus on the football in the air is another thing that makes Pickens an ideal end zone threat. Watch this jump ball that #18 J.T. Daniels throws up while getting hit, putting it up into the air for Pickens to maneuver around the defensive back in coverage on him along the right sideline, successfully plucking the ball before it drops to the ground while keeping his toe in-bounds for the score.
If you want a better example of Pickens utilizing his body control and concentration to make a difficult grab, watch this catch he makes from his true freshman season against future first-round pick #24 Derek Stingley Jr. Pickens runs the back shoulder fade that #11 Jake Fromm throws toward the sideline, but Pickens manages to turn around in a circle while reaching out to snag the ball just outside the outstretched arm of Stingley while keeping his right foot down in the green and manages to tap the left foot down for good measure before falling out of bounds.
While Pickens may not have been gifted with elite deep speed like some other top prospects, his long limbs give him the buildup long speed to be difficult to catch in the open field once he gets going. This makes Pickens a viable threat after the catch like we see on this slant pattern against the Tigers where Pickens comes across the middle and catches the ball in-stride before leaving a diving tackler behind him as he accelerates in open space, not allowing the pursuit to catch him as he takes the short pass to the end zone for six.
Still, Pickens has shown the ability to win down the field as a deep threat on the outside, having the ability to stack corners vertically with his combination of long strides and ability to leverage defenders in coverage. Watch this deep pass resulting in a score against another draft-hopeful #23 Roger McCreary where Pickens gets an outside release and a good hand swipe to keep McCreary’s hands off him. He gets a step on the defender running up the sideline and hauls in the pass into the bucket for the touchdown.
Pickens is a good athlete in his own right, but he isn’t going to consistently win vertically against uber-athletic defensive backs. He also needs to be more consistent with his burst off the LOS and shedding press coverage given his size and length. On this rep against the Crimson Tide, Pickens does get held up at the end for the holding call but could have utilized a hand swipe or more movement at the line to keep the defender’s arm off of him to allow a freer release to challenge vertically.
Overall, Pickens is an interesting case study due to his natural ability as a talented jump ball receiver that can make the crazy circus catches but isn’t a slouch either when it comes to creating after the catch. He can be a physical presence at the catch point and also in the run game as a blocker, but likely would benefit from adding more bulk to his frame to hold up better at the next level. His route running and consistency at beating press man are the main things he will need to focus on in his transition to the pros.
When coming up of a pro comparison for Pickens, it was difficult to decipher between the player he was to start his career at Georgia and what little he put on tape this season rushing back from the torn ACL. The injury, along with inconsistent QB play in a run-first offense played some part in him not fully breaking out in his short time in Athens, but the injury will have to be cleared in Indianapolis this coming week to ensure teams that he can return to the dynamic version we saw pre-ACL.
After initially having Corey Davis come to mind as a potential pro comp, I settled on another former Bulldog and physical specimen: A.J. Green. Green might be slightly taller than Pickens, but both share long, slender frames that are both physical at the catch point as well as when asked to block. Both receivers make difficult catches look routine with the ability to contort their bodies and win in contested catch situations. Green also didn’t have phenomenal stats in college but showcased his talent all-the-same as a jump ball receiver that can create in the open field.
Pittsburgh will be needing a receiver that can take the top off the defense in their offense, and while Pickens may be closer to the mold of a Chase Claypool than a Mike Wallace when it comes to play style, I do think that he can effectively play that Z-receiver role that not only can make defenses play him honest as a vertical threat, but also be more consistent at winning the 50/50 ball that Claypool has struggled with up unto this point in his career. The injury status raises questions where Pickens will eventually be selected come April, but should the medical check out, he could present a potential value in the middle rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Projection: Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.2 MED – Future Quality Stater (2nd Round)
Games Watched: vs Alabama (2021), vs Michigan (2021), at Missouri (2020) vs Auburn (2020)