The Unpacking Future Packers Countdown is a countdown of 100 prospects that could be selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2022 NFL draft.
After trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders for the 22nd and 53rd overall picks, the Green Bay Packers need to reload at the wide receiver position.
If it weren’t for the Atlanta Falcons, the wide receiver group of Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins and Amari Rodgers could stake a claim to the worst wide receiver depth chart in the NFL.
The Packers don’t just need a new No. 1 wide receiver. They need a remodel of the entire wide receiver group. It’s not a quick fixer upper. It’s going to take time and proper investment. The type of investment that former general manager, Ted Thompson used to put into the wide receiver room. From 2006 to 2011, the Sly Silver Fox selected Greg Jennings (2006), Jordy Nelson (2008), Randall Cobb (2011) in the second round and drafted James Jones (2007) in the third round.
Gutekunst may have started the process last season when he traded up to select Rodgers in the third round. Now he needs to continue to build off that by adding more premium talent to the position.
A player that Gutekunst could target early in the 2022 NFL Draft is George Pickens. The Georgia wide receiver checks in at No. 4 in the Unpacking Future Packers countdown.
Pickens burst onto the scene as a freshman for the Bulldogs. The five-star recruit recorded 49 receptions for 727 yards and eight touchdowns. He capped off his impressive freshman season with an impressive outing against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. Pickens caught 12 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown to earn MVP honors.
From Pro Football Focus:
George Pickens’ true freshman season could not have gone much better than it did. He finished as one of the 20 most valuable wide receivers in all of college football, displaying a massive catch radius and sure-fire hands. You would have thought that he had Stickum on his gloves because the man would catch any catchable ball thrown his way.
In 2020, Pickens missed two games due to injury and finished the season with 36 receptions for 513 yards and six touchdowns.
Pickens tore his ACL this past spring, but recovered quickly to return for the end of the season. To be able to recover that quickly from a torn ACL, shows how badly the former five-star recruit wants to compete.
“He’s a competitor,” Zach Patraw, the President of NFL Draft Bible said. “That’s his best trait. He’s going to fight to win every catch. He has the length and strong hands to pluck the ball away from his frame, even if there is contact.”
Pickens is a long, athletic wide receiver. He’s lanky with the frame to add some muscle. The former five-star recruit has a huge catch radius. He plays above the rim and outmuscles defensive backs at the catch point. He showcases outstanding body control to adjust to the ball in flight. He plays with an Alpha mentality and loves showing up cornerbacks. He has strong, reliable hands. According to Pro Football Focus, Pickens only had two drops during his collegiate career. According to Dane Brugler, 71.1 percent of his catches went for first downs or touchdowns.
“Attacking the ball at the high point and making contested catches is his greatest strength,” Patraw said. “He will try to beat you on every play, whether it’s route running, pass-catching, or blocking. He’s a fighter.”
Pickens accelerates smoothly off the line of scrimmage. He bursts out of his breaks to create separation and has good agility for a bigger wide receiver. He’s explosive and has the speed to get on top of cornerbacks.
“He’s such a smooth mover,” Patraw said. “His get-off at the line gives defenders nightmares with a quick first step to get on top of the corner and then can win with physicality or with his quick cuts. He uses his pads and head to make routes look like something they’re not.”
In terms of after the catch, Pickens has some juice. He has the speed, physicality and competitiveness to make things happen after the catch. If he’s able to pack on some muscle without compromising his speed, he’ll be a load to take down for defensive backs.
“He’s got solid speed and can occasionally break away from defenders,” Patraw said. “He’s not easily brought down and has the elusiveness to avoid defenders.”
Pickens brings it as a run blocker. It seemed like once every game there was a play where he put a defensive back on the ground. He may need to add some muscle to have the same type of effectiveness on Sundays, but the effort is there.
“He’s a fighter,” Patraw said. “He’s going to compete no matter what it is. I’d like to see him add five to 10 more pounds of muscle, which could help him be a more effective blocker, but he will go out there and do everything he can to block on the outside.”
Ideal WR options for the Packers in each round of the 2022 NFL draft
Fit with the Packers
If Pickens hadn’t suffered a torn ACL last spring, he’d likely be a Top 20 selection and one of the first wide receivers off the board. The Georgia wide receiver has the makeup to become a team’s top wide receiver.
“His skillset is all there,” Patraw said. “Winning contested catches, solid route running, good play-speed, a willing blocker. You’re getting a receiver that you can plug in from day one, as long as he’s fully healthy, and you’re going to get someone you can plug inside or outside to run any route.”
Pickens checks all the boxes with his frame, strong hands, athletic ability and age (21). It’s been 20 years since the Packers selected a wide receiver in the first round.
The Packers have a glaring hole at wide receiver. If Pickens is on the board when the Packers are on the clock with the 28th overall pick, he could end the drought. It’s entirely possible the Packers move up to get him early in round two.
In three years we could be looking back at Pickens as the best wide receiver from this draft class. If he were to land in Green Bay he’d be the early betting favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He’s the type of playmaker the Packers need as they begin reloading at wide receiver.