If you watched Steelers wide receiver George Pickens in his rookie season, it would be hard not to get excited with all the highlight reel plays he put up throughout the season. But Pickens could be up to make a bigger leap into superstardom if he continues his upward trend.
If you are betting historically, the chances that Pickens lands into 1,000 yard club are high. According to David Gautieri, out of 36 receivers drafted since 2000 that had 800 or more yards their rookie seasons, 24 of those guys ended up with or paced for 1000 or more yards their second year. That’s around 66 percent.
It’s a good sign, but there’s even more that could really pop Pickens more. Among early declares into the NFL Draft, which Pickens was, that climbs up to a whopping 86 percent, or 18 of 21 players. To say the least, when you are as productive a rookie as Pickens was in his first year, the signs are good historically.
One of those guys that did not reach or pace for 1000 yards was Chase Claypool. So, the Steelers have been in a similar situation. But Pickens is determined to not let that happen. Between expanding his route tree and becoming more attentive to things such as zone coverages and positioning when he catches the ball, Pickens hopes YAC and opportunities at all three levels of the field come by in 2023.
“I went to work this offseason on the little things in my routes,” Pickens said. “You know, I want to get over 1,000 yards this year. I want to be an even better target for Kenny. I feel like it’s time to step that next step. That’s it.”
One thing that Pickens did not have to prove was his contested catch rate. It was the best in the entire NFL, hauling in 68 percent of his contested catch opportunities. With elite body control and hands, Pickens has the necessary boxes to check off that fact. With improvement in mind, goal this year is to make the ‘two Bowls;, the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl,
“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. “Then, [I want to go to] the Super Bowl. The two bowls. A lot of RAC, run after catch. Two bowls for sure.”
All of this is to say if Pickens can round his route running off and work more into zone coverage, I think he could very well be breaking into superstardom. You know he can win down the field and make contested grabs, now he needs to become a three level monster that teams have worry across the field. That will increase his target volume and make him that much more dangerous to other defenses.