George Pickens is a draft prospect New York Jets fans must watch closely
This week seems to have been the week of the wide receiver. It’s been the position group on everyone’s minds when it comes to the New York Jets, as after they missed out on Tyreek Hill there’s still a big question mark in that room.
We’ve spoken at length about some of the top draft targets for the Jets at wide receiver, including the likes of Ohio State pair Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, USC’s Drake London, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, but we haven’t spoken a great deal about Georgia’s George Pickens.
George Pickens…the #1 WR in the 2022 draft. Guy is absolutely outstanding. https://t.co/MnOX23KBMW
— David Wyatt-Hupton (@DWyattHupton) January 1, 2021
I sent that tweet in January 2021, two months before Pickens crumpled to the grass during spring practice with an injury that was later revealed to be a torn ACL, expected to keep him out for the entire season.
Pickens rehabbed furiously to try and make it back to the field in 2021, and he achieved that goal when he made his season debut against Georgia Tech eight months later.
Take one quick look at the stat sheet from the 2021 season and it’s easy to see why George Pickens is flying a little under the radar among draft heads on Twitter:
- 4 games
- 5 receptions
- 107 yards
- 21.4 yards per reception
- 0 touchdowns
Georgia didn’t make Pickens a focal point of the offense upon his return due to the nature of his injury and the time he’d missed. The Bulldogs were flying through their SEC schedule, so Pickens was used more as a deep threat, evidenced by his 21.4 yards per reception. He brought in a 52-yard bomb in the National Championship game against Alabama.
Before the 2021 season, Pickens was targeted frequently when Georgia needed a big play the most. Between 2019 and 2020, 72% of his catches went for either a first down or a touchdown, a pretty remarkable number.
Pickens’ return from injury couldn’t have come at a better time. It allowed him to test at the combine and showcase his talents to potential suitors. His relative athletic score (RAS) of 9.33 was the eighth-best mark among wide receivers this year, and his 1.5 time in the 10-yard split was an outstanding number for a 6-foot-3 receiver.
Pickens is the kind of player you need to actually watch in order to fully understand. The numbers are good but they just won’t give you all the facts you need to truly understand his potential as a pro receiver.
Regardless, let’s start off with a look at the numbers across his career at Georgia after bursting onto the scene as a true freshman in 2019.
- Games: 24
- Targets: 139
- Catches: 90
- Yards: 1,346
- Catch %: 64.7%
- Touchdowns: 14
- Yards per reception: 15
- Drop %: 2.2%
- Contested Catch %: 47.1%
- First Downs: 64
Those are all very decent numbers that do not blow you away.
For a 6-foot-3 receiver, you want that contested-catch rate to be over 50%, but that career number was dragged down by his freshman rate of 27.8%. In 2020 his contested-catch rate jumped to 64.3% as Pickens packed on some weight, and then he brought down both of his contested catches in 2021 for a perfect 100% record.
Those are the numbers, but what about Pickens the player? I have Pickens as my No. 3 receiver in this entire draft class, and here’s why.
Pickens has that combination of quickness, speed, body control, agility, and hand-catching that I look for in big-time receivers. He tracks the ball as good as if not better than any receiver in this draft, and he plucks the ball out of the air away from his body. He also shows an understanding of how to attack leverage against man coverage which makes him a matchup nightmare.
— Zack Patraw (@NFL_Zack) December 8, 2019
His acceleration off the line (evidenced by that incredible 10-yard split time) is elite. He eats up the DB’s cushion quickly, he’s sudden in his movements to gain separation, and he’s often open underneath as DBs cheat on the long pass, afraid of his speed.
George Pickens creating 7 yards of separation on a 5 yard curl pic.twitter.com/mhP04lqwsf
— Theo Ash (@TheoAshNFL) March 21, 2022
Pickens is also a plus route-runner. While he’s not quite as polished as Garrett Wilson, he’s capable of running the entire tree.
He’s also one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever seen. He plays on the edge and sometimes that spills over like it did against Georgia Tech when he got himself ejected. While he may not be the most technically gifted run blocker, his effort is there and he blocks with a nastiness that you have to love.
George Pickens is a bully. pic.twitter.com/CibPKymR4E
— Robert 💔💔 (@RobertRaymond46) March 20, 2022
Every year you have prospects that you just feel good about; the numbers may not blow you away, but when you watch them you say “this guy is going to be a star”.
For me, that person is George Pickens.
If the Jets decide to stack the defense with their two first-round picks, then Pickens is a name I’m looking for on day two.