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Second-Year Scouting Report: George Pickens

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Every year, rookie fever emerges, and the previous class gets pushed aside by the shiny new NFL toys. This usually results in a rookie surge of ADP, which opens up pockets of value, especially with players from the previous class who may not be as established as some long-time veterans in the league. This happens even though most fantasy analysts (and players) understand the largest leap occurs from year 1 to year 2.

 

Throughout the summer, FTN will be releasing second-year scouting reports to keep these players fresh in fantasy managers’ minds. The series shifts today to George Pickens, the second-year wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers. This article is a breakdown of Pickens’s first season and what fantasy managers can expect from him going forward in 2023 and beyond.

George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

George Pickens was one of the most polarizing players in the 2022 draft class. Prior to his ACL injury early in the 2021 season, there were murmurs of him becoming the top name in the draft. After the injury, his draft stock fell making him potentially the steal of the draft at 52nd. Despite missing most of his junior year at Georgia, he posted 1,347 yards and 14 touchdowns in 24 career games at Georgia. His field-stretching ability, body control and ability to make circus catches helped him stand out from the field.

Even with all of this, he was a bit of a wild card. Add in a strong wide receiver class, and he slid down rookie-only drafts. In some cases, he was available in the early second round. In redraft leagues, there was some intrigue, but the lack of any sure production pushed him down draft boards, making him an upside play in the later rounds. 

What Went Wrong 

George Pickens started slow and never became a consistent weekly contributor — in half of his starts, he failed to finish inside the top 40. A lot of this stemmed from his inability to find the end zone consistently as he only found the end zone four times. Being only targeted on 15% of his routes was less than ideal, placing him outside the top 50 among players who ran over 300 routes. He was also very pedestrian in yards per route run at only 1.42, also outside the top 40. Some of this may have stemmed from the quarterback play, as the Steelers were starting fellow rookie Kenny Pickett for the majority of the season. 

 

What Went Right 

Within this roller coaster season, Pickens did manage six top-24 finishes, including two in the top 12, en route to a top-40 PPR finish on the season. He also caught 61.9% of his targets — 52 receptions for 801 yards and 4 scores. His body control at the catch point continued to impress at the NFL level, he caught 75% of his contested targets and was credited with 12 created catches via the FTN Fantasy stats hub. As we can see below via the FTN splits tool, he also saw a huge jump in production when Kenny Pickett took over. 

Prognosis Headed into 2023 

Many people are on the side of the fence that has George Pickens ascending into the upper tier of wide receivers. I am not. I think Pickens has a solid outlook as the second wide receiver in this offense, but Diontae Johnson is still the player I want to roster. Johnson is a cleaner route runner who has displayed the ability to separate leading to over 140 targets in each of the last three seasons. With Pickett likely taking a step forward in 2023, I anticipate him to be able to process defenses and get through more reads consistently. Although it is not a hard fact, however, Diontae Johnson’s style of play is much closer the Jordan Addison’s than Pickens’, a player Pickett enjoyed target often at Pitt. 

Now, I do not think this will make Pickens irrelevant for fantasy, but I do think he is more likely a top-30 option as opposed to a top-15 guy by season’s end. We will see something similar to last year with multiple boom weeks when he finds the end zone, but I think his floor will be much safer. This will make him the perfect WR3 on your roster, but it may be unlikely that you will be able to draft him in this range. 

Dynasty Outlook 

When it comes to dynasty, Pickens’ value has risen after a solid rookie campaign making him a tough player to acquire currently. His rookie year showed a ton of promise, but he still needs to develop into a more polished route runner and expand his route tree to make a jump into the elite tiers. If this happens there will be a good chance that Pickens becomes the primary weapon in an offense that could develop into one of the better ones in the league in the next few years. The future looks bright, so if you roster him, he is a hold unless you can get someone to overpay. 

Previous Crossed Up: Analyzing Struggling Young Hitters Next Pope’s Pick 6: Top WRs in the 2025 Draft

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