Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver George Pickens once looked like he was destined to be the next great NFL draft prospect. His 2019 freshman season at Georgia, when he registered 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns, placed him on the launching pad to superstardom. COVID-19’s impact on college football in 2020 limited him to just eight games, 513 yards, and six scores, but Pickens was still almost universally regarded as a first-round wideout entering the 2021 offseason. Then it happened. And by it, I mean the torn ACL he suffered in spring practice before the 2021 fall schedule got underway. It nearly shelved Pickens for the entire season, but he managed to return for four games—including the two-game college football playoff—and finished his Bulldogs career with a five-catch, 104-yard junior year. It wouldn’t have surprised anyone if Pickens decided to return to Athens for another season in an effort to repair his draft stock, but he decided to turn pro despite a tumultuous 2021 campaign and it’s a decision that could greatly benefit the Chicago Bears in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Bears don’t have a first-round pick thanks to the 2021 draft-day trade for Justin Fields. They do have a second-rounder, No. 39 overall, which could be the sweet spot for Pickens’ final draft value once April rolls around. In fact, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler published his second mock draft of the year on Wednesday, and he had the Bears landing Pickens with that pick. Pickens, at full health, may just be the best wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. He essentially proved to NFL teams that he’s all the way back on this field-flipping play against Alabama in the title game; it was a statement of sorts to the rest of his 2022 NFL draft classmates… he’s (just about) back: https://twitter.com/usatodaysports/status/1480722789665411074?s=20 Pickens was used sparingly upon his return, and for good reason. Georgia had essentially moved on from him by the time he was healthy and it was in his best interest to get reps while not jeopardizing further injury. It resulted in a win-win for both the program and Pickens—the Bulldogs are champs and Pickens’ arrow is pointing up. For the Bears, a player like Pickens makes almost too much sense. He’s an estimated 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and is equal parts field-stretcher and contested-catch wizard. He’d be a perfect complement to Darnell Mooney and help give the Bears a dynamic, young one-two punch to grow with Fields. Chicago is expected to be a player in the wide receiver market in free agency, but with Mooney the only legitimate wideout under contract at the start of the 2022 offseason, the Bears are likely to double-dip at the position in the draft, too. Whether Pickens actually ends up in Chicago’s crosshairs will depend on the level of free agent the Bears sign. If it’s a player like Mike Williams, maybe Chicago pushes wide receiver down its list of draft-weekend priorities. But remember: Pickens has first-round talent, and with this offseason focused on building around Fields, adding two blue-chippers like Williams in free agency and Pickens in the draft would be a resounding ‘mission accomplished.’ The primary goal for every NFL team on draft weekend should be to add talent. It’s certainly the rule in the first round, where teams do their best to avoid the temptation of drafting needs above value. The second round gets a bit murkier, and those pesky needs tend to move closer to the front of the objectives line. But if the Bears have a chance to land a first-round player at a second-round pick, adding talent (and value) should remain the primary goal. Pickens is that kind of player. He’s pure value; pure talent. And if he’s still on the board when the Bears are on the clock, they’ll become a better team by calling his name. They’ll certainly help Fields become a better quarterback with Pickens in tow, and that’s the ultimate goal.
- May 24, 2022
- May 23, 2022