Study: Distribution of the George Pickens Road Tree
The Pittsburgh Steelers once again headed well at wide receiver on Day 2 of an NFL Draft, leaving with George Pickens from the University of Georgia.
Pickens comes in highly rated as he was able to make an immediate impact as a true freshman for the Bulldogs and was groomed for a huge season ahead of his junior year last season before injuring his right knee in the spring. Pickens didn’t allow injury to stop his intentions of declaring himself for the NFL Draft and is now ready to contribute to the next level for the Steelers.
While at Georgia, Pickens managed to amass an impressive stat line despite an abbreviated final season, making 90 receptions for 1,346 yards and 14 touchdowns during his career. What we’re going to take a closer look at is how Pickens was targeted during his time at college.
In Georgia’s pass attack over the past three seasons, the Bulldogs have relied heavily on targeting their receivers on Hitch routes — a rate of nearly 17% of their pass attempts. The next highest routes include Go (9.4%), Wide Screen (9.0%) and Out (8.2%).
Looking at the target breakdown below for George Pickens, it’s no surprise that his main target routes are as such, with the exception of the widescreen.
Pickens accounted for 32.7% of Georgia’s targeted Go routes and 26.3% of their Hitch routes over the past three seasons — his top two targeted routes. The one lane in Georgia’s offense in which Pickens was rarely targeted on his side was widescreen. The train of thought for this could very well be that they viewed it as a real downline threat and used it as such. For every route listed with two or more targets, all but three had an average target depth of nearly 12 meters or more. The Hitch route is simply a staple of the Georgia attack based on their numbers and the slant routes were designed shallow to an average target depth of 6.8 yards. On the return routes, the (4) targets are small sample size for Pickens as it was also a rare route for Georgia to target as there were only 13 in total during his time there for the whole team.
What’s also telling is that Pickens was rarely used as a target on simple Jet or Ghost moves. Georgia didn’t target receivers using those moves much, but coupled with the fact that Pickens wasn’t used on screens either, the game plan each week was to get him working in the secondary.
Drops were also rare, and neither of the two he suffered came on downriver routes. Pickens’ success on the Go roads may have caught the Steelers’ attention in particular. As the lowest team of the season, Pittsburgh managed to haul just one TD from a true road Go. Pickens’ talents should help improve that number with his arrival based on his success at the college level.
Pickens also averaged 15.4 yards deep from targets in college and among 267 draft-eligible wide receivers with a minimum of 100 targets this year, his average ranked 24th overall. Additionally, among current receivers on the Steelers roster, Pickens’ average career depth ranks second only to new Miles Boykin.
In summary, the Steelers appear to have selected a real threat in George Pickens’ field, at least based on his average target depth as a Georgia Bulldog. Pickens also brings experience and success on Hitch routes which was the second highest target route for the Steelers last season at 11.8% and third (10.1%) during the season. 2020 season. Pickens should fit well into Pittsburgh’s offense as he should have opportunities to show off his skills, especially on the court.