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ESPN Analyst Sees ‘Absolute Superstar’ in George Pickens



Steelers George Pickens

ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell is a believer that George Pickens could be one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, ascribing to the notion first put forward by his ESPN teammate Ryan Clark earlier this week.

In an appearance on Get Up on ESPN on Friday, Barnwell said that he thinks Pickens could be a top-fide wide receiver, even this season, and even brought some statistical evidence for that claim.

“There’s a thing in the numbers that I found that was absolutely crazy to me,” Barnwell said. “It just blew my mind. There’s an NFL Next Gen Stats metric called expected catch rate. So what are your caches of catching the football, based on where the defenders are, where the quarterback threw the football, where you’re running, your speed, the defender’s speed. George Pickens last year was at 51% for his expected catch rate, five percentage points lower than anybody else in football. George Pickens caught 61% of the passes in his direction, even though he had it harder than anybody else in the league, he was still producing numbers last year.”

Pickens has been working on diversifying his route tree this season, in an effort to get him more separation and some easier catches. That was on display in the Steelers’ first preseason game, when he caught a 33-yard catch-and-run touchdown on an inward-breaking rote.

Barnwell said that he believes quarterback Kenny Pickett’s play could be a limited factor in how much Pickens develops in his second season with the Steelers, though he was not as vocal in his critique as co-panelist Bart Scott.

“If Kenny Pickett takes that step forward this year that I think a lot of us are expecting, George Pickens could go from being a guy who is making hay with very little to a guy who is an absolute superstar,” Barnwell said.

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