As the 2022 NFL Draft approaches, the Green Bay Packers appear to be doing plenty of research on the wide receivers in this year’s class. Two of the first three players who were reported to have top-30 visits are wideouts, and on Tuesday, news broke of two more wide receivers visiting Green Bay.
Both of these new reports involve players out of the Southeastern Conference, one of whom is a reigning national champion and a former teammate of the Packers’ 2021 first-round draft pick. That player is George Pickens, a favorite of ours here at Acme Packing Company and until recently, a member of the Georgia Bulldogs.
News of Pickens’ visit comes from Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated, who notes that the visit is taking place this week.
Pickens missed much of the 2021 season rehabbing a torn ACL, but he returned in time to contribute in the last four games of the year. He caught just five passes in total over that time, but averaged 21.4 yards per reception and broke open a few of those games with deep balls. That was particularly true for Georgia’s win in the National Championship Game, when Pickens caught a 52-yard pass on the team’s first scoring drive and later drew a critical pass interference penalty with the Bulldogs holding a one-point lead.
At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Pickens measured in a bit lighter than the Packers’ typical size preferences at wide receiver — almost all of the team’s boundary wideout snaps in the last three years have gone to players 205 pounds or heavier. However, Pickens was listed at 201 pounds at Georgia and could likely put on a bit more weight. At that size, he posted a very solid time of 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, with a blistering 1.50-second time in the first ten yards. Pickens’ deep ball ability as well as his tenacity and willingness to get dirty in the run game could well endear him to the Packers’ scouts and coaching staff.
The Packers should already have some inside information on Pickens from cornerback Eric Stokes, whom they drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Stokes and Pickens went head-to-head in practice for two years as both players honed their crafts against one another. Pickens did have an impressive first two years prior to his ACL tear in the fall of 2020, as he recorded 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns in 20 games as a freshman and sophomore. That injury may be one reason that the Packers are bringing him in for a visit, as the team may have their medical staff evaluate his injury and recovery.
In addition to Pickens’ visit, the Packers are also evidently hosting another receiver from the SEC East: Tennessee’s Velus Jones, who posted about his visit on his Instagram account. While Pickens is a young player, having just turned 21 in March, Jones is much older, turning 25 a few weeks after the draft. Jones started his college career at USC, where he struggled to make an impact on offense for four years. He then moved to Tennessee as a graduate transfer for the 2020 season, but returned with a bonus year of eligibility.
That appears to have been a good decision, as Jones recorded 807 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021, exceeding his previous career totals in all receiving categories. That put him on NFL teams’ radars heading into the Combine, where he exploded for a blistering 4.31-second 40-yard dash.
Beyond his deep-threat potential, Jones brings a wealth of experience as a return man, having returned at least 18 kickoffs in each of his non-redshirt seasons in college ball. He took two kickoffs back for touchdowns in his career, one each in 2019 and 2021, and also proved to be an explosive punt returner last year with a 15.1-yard average on 18 returns for the Volunteers.
These two names now make four wide receivers in the group of five confirmed or reported top-30 visits for the Packers, who are doing plenty of homework at that position as they attempt to replace Davante Adams’ production.