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George Pickens Ranked Second In Key Metric



Steelers Raiders George Pickens

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens developed a knack for making jaw-dropping acrobatic catches downfield in his rookie year. His most notable catch was his full-extension, one-handed grab against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, which drew shades of Odell Beckham Jr.

If it was a 50/50 ball, the former Georgia Bulldog was most likely come down with it. Pickens 18 contested catches in 2022 were the the most that Pro Football Focus ever charted by a rookie in a single season (2016-present).

With Pickens putting up impressive numbers in his rookie campaign, especially in regards to contested catches downfield, it wasn’t surprising that Nick Shook of ranked Pickens at No. 2 in his top 10 pass catchers by CROE of 2022. CROE stands for catch rate over expected, which measures the difficulty of completion using a number of factors, including separation from nearest defender, depth of target and speed. The players who qualified for the list made difficult, unlikely catches more often than the rest. Only former New York Giants wide receiver Richie James, who’s now with the Kansas City Chiefs, was ahead of Pickens on the list.

“Pickens caught 61.9 percent of his 84 targets in 2022, exceeding expectation at a rate of nearly 11 percent,” Shook wrote. “That helped him lead all rookies in receiving yards gained over expected with +183; he ranked 10th in that metric among pass catchers of every experience level (excluding running backs). Pickens also caught passes with the least average separation of any player on this list at 2.4 yards per target, and he posted the best CROE on tight-window throws at +32.9%, more than double the mark of Mike Williams, the next-closest pass catcher, underscoring his ability to consistently make difficult plays.”

George Pickens’ ran 221 go routes in 2022, which was by far the most in the league. Pickens was successful, but a more diverse route tree is much-needed for him and the offense overall in 2023.

“Much of Pickens’ production came while running vertically, which he did more often than any other pass catcher in the NFL — he was the only receiver to break 200 such routes run in 2022,” Shook wrote. “The approach was incredibly productive: Pickens caught 16 of 28 targets on his 231 go routes, posting a CROE of +23.3%, the best of any pass catcher with at least 20 targets on such routes. Note that the NFL average for CROE on such routes since 2018 is -0.1%.”

Pickens proved in his rookie year that he’s a field-stretching catch artist. He previously stated that his one-handed grab against the Browns in Week 3 was not even a top-5 catch for him. He had better catches in college at Georgia, specifically a catch that he had in practice, which is on YouTube. For Pickens, it’s now about developing the rest of his game and becoming an elite route-runner.

Many analyst believe George Pickens will have a breakout year in 2023. He also holds high expectations for himself, too. He wants to be elite.

“Year two goals are Pro Bowl, and I feel like last year I feel like I got snubbed, because there wasn’t a lot of guys in there at the Pro Bowl that excited me,” Pickens said two weeks ago during OTAs. “Then, [I want to go to] the Super Bowl. The two bowls. A lot of RAC, run after catch. Two bowls for sure.”

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