Earlier in the SB Nation Writers’ Mock Draft, Acme Packing Company selected edge rusher George Karlaftis with the 22nd overall selection. Our Justis Mosqueda discussed the pick at length here, which left us feeling great about landing an excellent player but still nervous as we look for a game-changing wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers.
Prior to 22, the top-tier wideouts had already come off the board. Three went off in consecutive picks, with the Chargers grabbing Jameson Williams at 17, the Eagles taking Chris Olave at 18, and the Saints nabbing Garrett Wilson at 19. Thus, we went best player available at 22 in the hopes of finding a talented wideout at 28.
But before then, five more selections had to take place. Those went as follows:
23. ARI: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
24. DAL: Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M
25. BUF: Andrew Booth, Jr., CB, Clemson
26. TEN: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
27. TB: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Yet again, another mini-run on receivers took place, with a fifth and sixth player at the position getting scooped up before the first round had concluded. With such a big group already going, that was inevitably going to drive up the cost of the next tier of receivers, and we at APC have decided we’re not going to wait any longer to get a player that we believe can be a bona fide No. 1 receiver down the line while also contributing in a big way as a rookie. Therefore, with the 28th overall selection we choose George Pickens, wide receiver, Georgia.
On the surface, Pickens fits every check-box the Packers look for in a wideout. He has good size (6’3, 200 pounds) and has plenty of speed (4.47 40), especially in terms of his burst off the line (1.50-second 10-yard split). That burst helps illuminate Pickens’ deep-ball ability. He’s just as adept at making contested catches as he is blowing by defensive backs, and his ability to create separation is a function of both his athleticism and his route-running skills. The latter need a bit of refinement to improve his consistency, but the raw tools are evident.
Take a look at Pickens toasting the Alabama secondary for a big play in the National Championship Game this January:
You just got Moss’d in the natty dog— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) April 20, 2022
Ultimately, even though it might take Pickens a bit to develop and reach his ceiling as a receiver, that ceiling is sky-high and he should still be able to contribute as a deep threat as a rookie — something the Packers’ offense desperately needs after Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s departure in free agency. Pickens of course missed portions of the last two seasons with injuries, most notably suffering a torn ACL in 2021 spring practices. However, he returned just over eight months later, playing in the Bulldogs’ final four games of the year and providing a jolt to an offense that needed some splash plays.
The other quality that stands out most about Pickens on film is his competitiveness. No other receiver in this class plays with the mean streak that Pickens displays; there’s a swagger that shows up in his willingness to make contested catches as well as his tenacity as a blocker. This thread illustrates just a few examples of that attitude and his nasty demeanor on the field:
That play came in the second half of the College Football Playoff semifinal with the Bulldogs up 27-3! One can certainly imagine Matt LaFleur — a coach who has talked at length about wide receivers’ run-blocking abilities — falling in love with the effort that Pickens gives in that aspect of the game. The Packers did bring Pickens in for a pre-draft visit this year, likely with the goal of having the team’s trusted medical staff evaluate his surgically-repaired knee.
On an athletic level, Pickens hits the Packers’ preferences for the drills that he performed, though he did not run agilities at the Combine or at Georgia’s Pro Day. Still, there are few other receivers in this class that approach the 200-pound mark (he was an even 200 at Pro Day) and who have the type of athleticism that he displayed, driving him up our board and into consideration in round one.
#9 #RAS WR 2022— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 13, 2022
George Pickens is a WR prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.37 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 176 out of 2768 WR from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/QGryvfnVnZ #RAS pic.twitter.com/Y6guKDj8r2
If he had played a full season in 2021, we at Acme Packing Company believe that he may well have been atop the WR rankings in this year’s draft class. Instead (and assuming his knee checks out), the Packers get a player with the ceiling of a true No. 1 receiver to pair with a great, athletic pass-rusher with their first selection, freeing up the draft board to draft the best players available when they go back on the clock with two picks in the 50s.