According to Sports Illustrated‘s Bill Huber, the Green Bay Packers will meet with former Georgia Bulldog wide receiver George Pickens this week. Pickens has one of the higher upsides among players who will likely be available at the end of the first round or even the second round. Here’s what you need to know about the big-body receiver.
The two-time all-state prep in Alabama was originally committed to Auburn before his February flip to Georgia following his senior season. The Under Armor All-American also took official visits to LSU, Miami, Miami and Tennessee and was ranked the 24th overall prospect, fourth-ranked receiver and first-ranked Alabamian in the 2019 recruiting class, according to 247 Sports’ composite ranking.
The highly-touted Pickens immediately made a splash on a Georgia team that made the SEC Championship his freshman season, leading the team in receptions and breaking the program’s freshman receiving records. He would follow up that performance with another team-leading reception performance in 2020 before tearing his ACL in the spring of 2021, keeping him out of all but the final four games of the Bulldogs’ title run last season.
Despite his lack of playing time in 2021, the recently-turned 21-year-old elected to declare for the NFL draft after three years of college football.
The first thing you’ll notice watching Pickens play is how large he is. Standing at 6’3 1/4 ”, he ranks in the 86th percentile in height among receivers to go along with 32 3/8” arms and 77 3/8 ”wingspan, also above average for the position.
Beyond length, Pickens also ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time in Indianapolis, which translates to the field. Despite playing with a lack-luster crew of quarterbacks, including current free agent Jake Fromm, former walk-on Stetson Bennett and current transfer portal passer JT Daniels, Pickens was able to make highlight-caliber plays in a run-heavy offense.
Despite not running agility drills, Pickens has shown on the field that he is a fluid athlete. He is quick off of the line of scrimmage and flips his very well hips on outside breaking routes for a receiver of his size.
Most importantly, he is an absolute dog when it comes to his physicality. In a rivalry game against Georgia Tech as a freshman, Pickens squabbled with a Yellow Jackets defender in a fight that led to Pickens hurling the Tech player into the end zone wall in his own home stadium. He has sprayed an opposing quarterback with a water bottle when the defense ran him to the Bulldog sideline. Against Michigan in the playoffs this past season, he shushed the Michigan sideline before putting a Wolverines cornerback on his butt … then shushed the sideline again mid-play.
He will fight tooth and nail with whoever lines up across from him. Every single play. He is exhausting.
He also has great hands. According to Pro Football Focus, the charting company has only registered 2.1 percent of its targets as drops over his college career, six times less than the rate of North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, who is projected to go in the same range as Pickens.
Career drop rates
George Pickens: 2.1%
Skyy Moore: 3.3%
Chris Olave: 4.7%
Jahson Dotson: 5.1%
Drake London: 5.7
Alec Pierce: 6.4%
Garrett Wilson: 6.8%
Justyn Ross: 7.1%
Treylon Burks: 7.4%
Jameson Williams: 7.7%
Jalen Tolbert: 8.4%
Christian Watson: 12.7% pic.twitter.com/QH1qlhHq2L
– Ben Linsey (@PFF_Linsey) April 7, 2022
Outside of injury, there are very few knocks in Pickens’ game. I spoke to former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, a projected first-round pick, earlier this week and he told me that the best player he faced in practice while with the Bulldogs was Pickens, despite Dean going head-to-head in the trenches with several former first-round pick offensive linemen.
If you’re really splitting hairs, a 4.47-second 40-yard dash isn’t that fast. It’s hard to call that a knock. He also primarily played outside receiver only, in part due to his system, but his level of physicality shouldn’t prevent him from playing in the slot as a professional.
Still, the fact that he only played 62 snaps in all of 2021 at least deserves a mention of concern. Reading between the lines here, there’s a good chance the Packers want him on a visit so they can look at how the health of his knee now that a full year has passed since his ACL injury and his reconstructive surgery.
Pickens is a big, physical, fast and fluid receiver who was on pace to be a high first-round pick in his first two seasons at Georgia before an ACL injury cost him most of his 2021 campaign. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Pickens and Arkansas’ Treylon Burks are going to visit the Packers this offseason, as they may be the best receivers available on the board when Green Bay is on the clock with the 22nd overall pick in the draft.
As long as there is no long-term concern with the health of Pickens’ knee, he should develop into a high-level X receiver whose presence is felt not only in the passing game but also when springing runs open on the perimeter as a blocker . The sure-handed receiver never played with a professional-caliber quarterback at the college level, leaving the door open for him to be a better professional than collegiate.