INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia receiver George Pickens says he brought a “first-round mentality” to the NFL Combine this week, eager to show teams he’s back to 100 percent after tearing his ACL last March.
Already, Pickens said he feels like a pro because of the amount of talent his UGA program produced this season with 14 Bulldogs’ at the NFL Combine this year.
“We have NFL-type practices, we have NFL-type players,” Pickens said of Georgia football. “Half of the players on my team are already here. It’s almost like you’re in the league, already.”
Pickens certainly has the personality of a professional athlete, as he was confident and engaging throughout his interview. It made it all the more puzzling why Coach Kirby Smart restricted Pickens from talking with media last season and throughout most of his sophomore season.
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Pickens made noise every time he was on the field, though, even after returning from a knee injury last season.
The former 5-star receiver prospect from Hoover (Ala.) High School caught five passes for 107 yards after returning for the final four games of the Bulldogs’ CFP Championship Season.
One of those catches was a 52-yard diving catch on a post route in the first half of UGA’s 33-18 win over Alabama, helping a struggling Bulldogs’ offense get on track.
Pickens said the memory of that catch dawned on him on Monday when flying back into Indianapolis, site of this year’s CFP Championship Game as well as the NFL Combine.
It was then, Pickens said, that it fully resonated just what he and his Bulldogs’ teammates had accomplished.
“When we flew in, when all the receivers and QBs flew in, it really hit me,” Pickens said, “It was like, ‘I just caught a post here, and we just won the natty.’ It really hit me then.”
Pickens hit the Georgia offense with great impact as a freshman in 2019, combining with current NFL quarterback Jake Fromm to reel in 49 catches for 727 yards and 8 touchdowns.
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Pickens’ fantastic freshman season included a Sugar Bowl MVP performance of 12 catches for 175 yards and a TD in a 26-14 win over Baylor.
Pickens soldiered through an upper-body injury his sophomore season before finding his groove with quarterback JT Daniels.
Pickens had 23 catches for 373 yards the final four games of the season with Georgia running more of a pass-first offense with Daniels under center.
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Many projected Pickens to have a 1,000-yard year in 2021, but the ACL injury he suffered in spring drills derailed him and played a role in Georgia shifting to more of a run-first game that fit Stetson Bennett.
“Stetson is more a run-first guy — he has the legs under him to run, so that gives him the option to run,” Pickens said, comparing last season’s UGA quarterbacks.
“JT, his touch and his throwing ability have really excelled over the years. They are both good quarterbacks, they are both great quarterbacks. It’s just one fits one scheme, and the other fits the other scheme.”
Pickens said he benefitted from playing at Georgia in a system run by former NFL offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
“The biggest benefit is a pro-style offense,” said Pickens, who figures to measure in bigger than the 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds Georgia has him listed at.
“(Monken) was formerly with the Browns with Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham. That’s the offense we ran, that same exact offense. So the biggest benefit is being in the pro-style offense.”
Pickens and the other receivers will compete in the NFL combine events on Thursday, with the Georgia receiver saying he hopes to run in the “4.3 or 4.4″ range in the 40-yard dash and post an impressive vertical jump number.
Pickens said he’ll wait until the UGA Pro Day on March 16 in Athens before he does the broad jump.
The other Georgia football players at the NFL Combine this week are:
• Jordan Davis
• Nakobe Dean
• Travon Walker
• Devonte Wyatt
• James Cook
• Zamir White
• Jamaree Salyer
• Justin Shaffer
• Channing Tindall
• Quay Walker
• Derion Kendrick
• Jake Camarda
• Lewis Cine