George Pickens Fantasy Football Outlook: Steelers Rookie WR Has Significantly More Value In Dynasty vs. Redraft
Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Steelers rookie WR George Pickens
- Our fantasy football expert Samantha Previte teamed up with longtime NFL GM Randy Mueller to forecast expectations for Steelers rookie WR George Pickens.
- Find his landing spot grade, pre-draft evaluation and more below.
Who Is George Pickens?
by Samantha Previte, fantasy football analyst for Action
George Pickens shockingly slipped quite a bit in this draft. The 21-year-old Georgia product was projected to be an early second-round pick with a draft position over/under listed at 36.5; he fell all the way to No. 52 as the 11th receiver taken in this year’s class, potentially due in part to health concerns.
Pickens’ positive attributes include his physical build, speed and route-running abilities. He stands at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, which means he profiles as an outside receiver who will stack up well against NFL cornerbacks. Pickens’ size doesn’t seem to be a hindrance to him and clocked a solid 4.47-second 40-yard-dash at the combine.
And as Randy Mueller also points out later in this story, Pickens’ route-running is “well above average.”
Pickens draws criticism for his lack of playing time at Georgia, and as such, has been referred to as a raw talent in need of refinement. He generated early hype as a freshman and appeared in a career-high 12 games, recording 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns. His 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and he recorded 36 catches for 513 yards and six touchdowns. Pickens appeared in just four games in 2021 after suffering a torn ACL in the spring and caught five passes for 107 yards and zero touchdowns.
He also has relatively small hands for his frame and the position, which measured 8.75 inches at the combine.
George Pickens Fantasy Football Outlook
by Samantha Previte, fantasy football analyst for Action
Landing Spot Grade: B-
The landing spot is not terrible for dynasty leagues, but it is suboptimal for 2022. which may not matter much since Pickens probably needs at least a year to develop.
The Steelers’ glaring issue is the quarterback position.
With Ben Roethlisberger officially retired, they signed former Bears signal-caller Mitch Trubisky to a two-year deal this offseason as a stopgap. They also drafted the only quarterback in the first two rounds of this year’s draft, Kenny Pickett, who may compete with Trubisky, 27, and Mason Rudolph, 26, for the starting role.
The 23-year-old Pickett could be the Steelers’ long-term solution, but I anticipate Trubisky will start Week 1, and frankly none of those options are exciting from a fantasy perspective.
Pickens is a nice addition to the Steelers’ receiving depth chart after the attrition of JuJu Smith-Schuster to the Chiefs, though he will face decent competition for targets.
Diontae Johnson, 25, is coming off his best season to date (in spite of shaky quarterback play), in which he recorded 107 catches on 169 targets for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. He will be the focal point of the Steelers’ passing attack, but becomes a free agent after this season which boosts Pickens’ long-term appeal.
Chase Claypool, 23, was the team’s No. 2 wideout last season and caught 59 of 105 targets for 860 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Pat Freiermuth, 23 – whom I fully expect to take a leap in Year 2 – was third in receiving for the Steelers during his inaugural season and caught 60-of-79 targets for 497 yards and seven touchdowns.
2022 Fantasy Potential: None for the moment
Pickens will probably go undrafted in most redraft formats, but is a name to keep an eye on for waiver wire moves later in the season.
The quarterback situation – at least for 2022 – does not spark joy and caps the upside of most of the Steelers’ pass-catchers, but the former Bulldog does have the toolbox to produce at this level. However, he would likely have to leapfrog Claypool on the depth chart to reach his ceiling, which may not happen this season.
Pickens carries significantly higher value in dynasty formats.
George Pickens Pre-Draft Evaluation
by Randy Mueller, former NFL general manager and team executive
Although Pickens’ body of work may not be that of other top wide receivers in this draft, his flashes may be as good as any. With a longer frame (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and 4.45 speed, Pickens is anything but a long strider or a straight line athlete.
He is sudden off the ball, can eat up a defenders cushion and forces early commitments from corners who expect to run with him deep. He actually plays faster than his 40 time would indicate and is so light on his feet that you forget he is 6-foot-3 — he can lower his pads and get in and out of tight turns and breaks like a much smaller man. He has a combination of body control and suddenness that very few have in this years draft.
Because of that, I would rate his route running well above average. He shows, when asked, that he can stop and start on a dime. He has very good hands, can extend to catch outside his frame and shows ability to track and adjust to long balls easily. All this, plus he can make contested catches and is plenty aggressive and willing to go inside in traffic and take contact.
His play speed and explosive ability to get on a defender’s toes will allow him to take the top off NFL defenses.
The downside for Pickens is not his skill set, but his body of work and numbers on paper, but those can be explained.
He tore his ACL in March 2021, missing 90% of this past season, and that was after coming off a COVID-shortened season in which he caught only 36 balls. His best college season was actually his first, with 49 catches and eight touchdowns. At Georgia, his route tree was somewhat limited, plus QB play and skill set limited Pickens’ numbers.
As only a three-year player, he will be raw in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators, but I see major upside once he settles into learning a new system. I could very easily see him as a high second-round option for a receiver-hungry team.
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