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George Pickens

Steelers could be sitting on breakout receiver

I expect I’ll be drafting George Pickens in a lot of leagues. He was good as a rookie, and I’m expecting he’ll take a big step forward.

The hands, of course, are unbelievable. He had that Beckham-type catch at Cleveland, and he came up with a couple other remarkable grabs as well. He’s rangy, and with unusual hands. And I think he’ll benefit from Pittsburgh’s passing game in general taking a nice step forward, with Kenny Pickett moving into his second season.

Playing around with the numbers, I put together a list of receivers who finished with similar rookie receivers. I left out the guys who totally dominated – Chase, Jefferson, Beckham – but instead focused on wide receivers who caught 50-70 passes (but not more) and also averaged over 14 yards per catch.

I found 22 such receivers, then looked up how they performed in their second seasons. The hit rate was remarkably good. Three of the players missed at least seven games (I’ve got them tagged with black dots) but of the remaining 19, all but 3 finished with top-22 numbers. That’s in PPR formats (with Pickens being a downfield-type of guy, he should rank higher in standard rather than PPR formats).

Most or many of us agree that Pickens will be a top-30 receiver in 2023, but that might be a little conservative. Could make more sense to move him up to around 20th among wide receivers. Screams out as a breakout kind of prospect.

2004Andre Johnson, Hou.1679114214.56230.418
2005Roy Williams, Det.134568715.38161.735
2007Marques Colston, N.O.1698120212.311284.28
2008Dwayne Bowe, K.C.1686102211.97230.216
2009DeSean Jackson, Phil.1562115618.612263.310
2012A.J. Green, Cin.1697135013.911301.84
2012Julio Jones, Atl.1679119815.210261.811
2012Torrey Smith, Balt.164985517.48183.431
2013Josh Gordon, Cle.1487164618.99314.43
2013T.Y. Hilton, Ind.1682108313.25220.919
2014DeAndre Hopkins, Hou.1676121015.96233.014
2015Sammy Watkins, Buff.1360104717.59218.820
2015Mike Evans, T.B.1574120616.33212.622
2018JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitt.16111142612.87298.98
2018• Cooper Kupp, LAR84056614.26135.151
2020DK Metcalf, Sea.1683130315.710273.37
2020A.J. Brown, Ten.1470107515.412249.511
2020Terry McLaurin, Was.1587111812.94225.820
2020• Deebo Samuel, S.F.73339111.8180.796
2021Chase Claypool, Pitt.155986014.62166.638
2021• Jerry Jeudy, Den.103846712.3085.085
2022DeVonta Smith, Phil.1795119612.67256.69
2023George Pickens, Pitt.???????

—Ian Allan

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