Wide receiver George Pickens has been a household name for several years now, and for good reason. At his best, Pickens looks like a first-round receiver with a legitimate No. 1 NFL target upside.
An ACL injury kept him sidelined for eleven games this season, but he returned against Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale. Pickens was playing on a pitch-count, logging only two snaps in the first half.
It will take time for him to return to the height of his powers, but Georgia hopes to have him back in some capacity this postseason. Expecting him to pick up where he left off is unreasonable for most, though George Pickens is not your common athlete and he could still make a crucial difference in postseason play.
There is an argument to be made that Pickens is the X-factor moving forward, not just for Georgia but for all playoff teams. Defensive coordinators have spoken about how difficult game-planning for Pickens is, and his mere presence attracts multiple defenders on any given play.
Georgia will need someone to step up and make big plays in the passing game at some point, whether that be in the SEC Championship Game or beyond. Pickens consistently plays well in big situations, and if he is given opportunities could change the course of a game.
Fans also need to prepare themselves for another possible reality: Pickens may not be ready. He looked good in limited action against Georgia Tech, but playing spot snaps against the Yellow Jackets and an entire game against Alabama are two entirely different things.
Against Alabama, one could reasonably expect Georgia to use Pickens in spurts. Playing as a way to either draw coverage or design a shot play to the young star.
He should be commended for his efforts either way. Barring testing, Pickens should be a top-75 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, regardless of his return. He could have rested on his laurels and became a multi-millionaire, but he instead worked hard to get back for this postseason stretch.
The fact that it is even a question if he can get back to make plays on this stage is impressive. After all, Pickens spent just eight months rehabbing his ACL before returning to live college football action.
Teams will have to worry about Pickens the rest of the way. Even if he doesn't play much against the Crimson Tide, defenses will be planning for him in some capacity during the College Football Playoff. Coordinators alike will be in meeting rooms warning their players about No. 1, which in these circumstances is a huge win for Georgia even if he doesn't return fully.
"Recall back to October 17th, 2020 against Alabama. George Pickens had (8) catches to date prior to that football game on the season through three games. Yet when the first snaps took place, it was Pickens who dictated coverage for the eventual national champions. He doesn't need the ball or have shown proof of concept, his talent draws attention." - Brooks AustiDawgs Daily Lead Editor
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