Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines one play UGA wide receiver George Pickens’ portfolio, a back-shoulder fade where his jump-back technique needs refinement.
When we look back on this 2022 NFL Draft class, there are legitimate reasons that George Pickens could easily wind up its best wide receiver. The reason I’m banking on most dropping him down their rankings will be his ACL tear and an offense that didn’t maximize Pickens’ potential. Neither factor has anything to do with the individual skills and traits that Pickens brings to his portfolio of film.
As mentioned in an earlier Boiler Room on Wan’Dale Robinson, there’s a narrow difference between good and great in the NFL and one of the common differences I routinely see among receivers is their ability to earn an optimal position at the catch point. It’s a common issue among impressive athletes learning the receiver position that they lack refined techniques with these skills.
Fans rarely understand the techniques because football commentators and analysts spend little time on the subject and when they do, it’s usually focused on pulling the ball away — one of at least four positioning techniques essential for strong receiver play, especially in the vertical game.
The result is that fans, analysts, and even scouts don’t realize that leaping ability is a raw material. There are a lot of receivers that can jump at least 36 inches but cannot time their leap or earn the appropriate position to maximize this skill. Worse yet, many have poor timing and technique that minimizes the raw material of their athletic ability.
Pickens is a top athlete. He wins targets against tight coverage and makes acrobatic plays. He also lacks refined technique with how he uses his leaping ability when targeted in contested situations.
This Boiler Room episode shows one of two catches against Missouri in 2020 where Pickens lacks proper Jump-Back technique and makes his life far more difficult than necessary. It also looks back at a Ja’Marr Chase reception to compare and contrast his optimal Jump-Back technique.
The fact that Pickens is making plays with suboptimal technique in these situations underscores his raw athletic ability and refined skill with his hands. Courtland Sutton is a great example of a terrific athlete who has been good but not great at the NFL level — and I’m focusing on plays within his control that he failed to make, not his quarterback situation.
While built different from Sutton, Pickens has the skills to deliver like Sutton within a season or two. If he works hard at what’s raw with his game, he could be even better.
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