Viewed in the eyes of the Green Bay Packers, Georgia wide receiver George Pickens likely looks a lot like the 2022 version of Eric Stokes, the team’s first-round pick in 2021.
Pickens checks a lot of boxes for the Packers in the first round in 2022.
Like Stokes, Pickens is young, an elite athlete, plays a high need position and fits the team’s size thresholds. They played both against top competition in the SEC and were impact players early in their collegiate careers.
A year ago, Stokes was 22 years old, had a Relative Athletic Score of 9.38 and fit the Packers’ top positional need entering the draft. He became the 29th overall pick and enjoyed a terrific rookie season. Pickens is 21 years old, has a RAS of 9.33 and fits the Packers’ top positional need entering the draft. Green Bay holds picks No. 22 and 28 in the first round and could target a receiver with one or both picks.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has drafted five first-round picks since taking over in 2018. Four of the five were 21 years old; three of the five had a RAS of 9.0 or higher. All five were either 22 years old or younger with a RAS of 8.0 or higher. Pickens fits the age and athleticism tendencies.
Entering last year’s draft, Stokes was not widely viewed within the top tier of cornerbacks prospects. The same goes for Pickens and the 2022 receiver group. Most see Drake London, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams and Treylon Burks as the top five. Pickens is probably in the second tier, possibly through no fault of his own.
After catching 85 passes for 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns during his freshman and sophomore seasons and establishing himself as one of the best receivers in the SEC, Pickens tore his ACL before his junior season and missed all but four games. As a result of the injury, he caught just five passes in 2021. Given a full junior season, Pickens might be a sure-fire first-rounder.
Keep in mind, Pickens caught eight touchdown passes, led Georgia in receiving yards and was the Sugar Bowl MVP as an 18-year-old freshman.
The Packers will love his combination of size (6-3), athleticism and physicality. As a receiver, he wins the ball in the air, creates separation at the line of scrimmage, bursts in and out of breaks and produces points in the red zone. He’s also a willing and able blocker who seeks out and punishes defenders. Projecting him into the Packers offense as a replacement for Davante Adams as the “X” receiver isn’t difficult.
Pickens fit as a perimeter receiver, which is arguably the top roster need in Green Bay after losing Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He played over 80 percent of his snaps out wide while at Georgia. Even as a true freshman in the SEC, he won in a variety of ways at all three levels of the field.
Pickens should be a legitimate deep threat. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at 6-3, with a 10-yard split of 1.5 seconds. He gets moving in a hurry and sustains speed, even after his ACL injury. A true deep threat doesn’t have to run sub 4.4 if the player can win at the line and get to top speed immediately. Pickens can. And his ball skills down the field are excellent; maybe the best in the class. He tracks the ball well, can high-point passes and is terrific catching the ball away from his body. He made an incredible sprawling catch against Alabama in the national title game.
There’s a little bit of risk here given the fact that Pickens missed most of his junior season with a significant injury, but he has true No. 1 receiver potential at the next level if he can bounce back and build on what he produced as a young player at Georgia.
The Packers already brought Pickens in for an official pre-draft visit, suggesting interest.
Could Gutekunst dip into the Georgia pipeline for a second consecutive first-round pick? Don’t be surprised if Pickens, who checks so many of the same boxes Stokes checked off last year, is the pick at No. 22 or No. 28 later this month. He’s a tremendous fit for Green Bay in the first round.