The New England Patriots are in the market for a wide receiver, and might just invest one of their Day 2 draft selections to bolster the position. One of the most intriguing players expected to be available in this range is Georgia’s George Pickens, a projected second-round selection.
Pickens missed most of the 2021 season after tearing his ACL in the spring, but his talent cannot be denied. His ceiling is as high as any receiver’s in the draft this year, and he is able to combine impressive size with some of the best hands in the entire class.
And yet, Pickens comes with a boatload of questions. His recovery and subsequent lack of production — he played in four games, catching five passes for 107 yards — are one issue, but it appears there are others as well: according to a recent story by The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, the 21-year-old is considered a “boom-or-bust” prospect heading towards the draft.
One NFL scout and two wide receiver coaches shared their thoughts on Pickens, and while they praised his talent they also raised some concerns.
Scout 2: George Pickens. There’s a lot of upside, but he can’t get out of his own way. He’s been enabled his whole life.
WR Coach 3: Pickens. You love his game, but there’s some issues. Do you want to work with him? He’s a top-6 talent-wise, but it’s impossible not to add those other things. He has the size, has really good range. He positions his body on deep throws. He consistently beats press coverage. Has good start-stops with some AI (Allen Iverson) crossover in his game. A lot of the stuff in (Todd Monken’s) system translates to the NFL. But I wouldn’t touch him.
WR Coach 5 on Pickens: On tape, he is probably a top-5 wide receiver but there’s just so many red flags, and they’re big red flags. He’s got a lot of growing up to do. If he goes to the right place with a room full of veterans that help him go the right way, I think he’ll have a chance.
What exactly those “big red flags” are is anyone’s guess, but there have been whispers that Pickens did not interview as well during the pre-draft process as teams would have hoped. Besides those concerns, there are others as well that are publicly assessable.
During his 2019 freshman season, for example, Pickens was ejected from a game against Georgia Tech after getting into a fistfight with a defender. He was disciplined and suspended one half the following game. The following year, he was furthermore flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for spraying water on a Tennessee player on a sideline.
Questions about his maturity have followed Pickens his entire college career, and others about his medicals were added along the way. After missing two games in 2020 due to an upper-body injury, he also suffered the aforementioned ACL tear last March.
Add it all up and you can see why the junior wide receiver is expected to be available on the second day of the draft. The question is which team will take a flier on him — and which player it will get: Pickens has serious WR1 upside and could become one of the steals of the draft if landing in the right situation and putting it all together. He could, however, also flame out in spectacular fashion if the questions about him are warranted.
As for the Patriots, they appear to be an ideal landing spot for Pickens. They have some established leadership on their roster, and in the wide receiver room as well. Furthermore, they would not have to put any immediate pressure on the Georgia product and could slowly integrate him into their system and culture.