George Pickens Fantasy Outlook: Can He Be a Weekly Fantasy Starter?

Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens showed flashes as a rookie and could be ready to deliver consistent fantasy football value. Is he a 2023 sleeper?

Pittsburgh Steelers WR George Pickens was a regular on highlight shows during his rookie campaign, but his 2022 season carries as many ups (five games with over 14.5 half-PPR points) as downs (five games with under five points) as Kenny Pickett progressed through his first season. Just how valuable he is in fantasy football circles will rely greatly on his ability to gain consistency in an offense that looks very similar to that of 2022.

Behind in research? Get a trade offer in your dynasty or redraft league? Not sure who to start or sit this week? Leverage PFN’s FREE fantasy tools — our Fantasy Football Draft Kit, Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer and Calculator, and Start/Sit Optimizer! Put the finishing touch on your A+ draft with 1 of our 425+ fantasy football team names.

George Pickens’ Fantasy Outlook

With nearly 33% of his catches as a rookie gaining 20+ yards, Pickens averaged 15.4 yards per catch and was used primarily as a field stretcher (14.8-yard aDOT, second in the league) in an offense that was evolving on the fly around Pickett.

The skill position players in this offense remain pretty similar this season to last: Diontae Johnson profiles as the target leader, Najee Harris is a touch machine, and Pat Freiermuth is good for roughly four catches per game.

The lone wrinkle provided by offseason movement in Pittsburgh was the addition of Allen Robinson II (30 years old in August). What exactly the pride of Penn State has left in the tank is unclear (71 catches and just four touchdowns in his 22 games over the past two seasons), but with limited WR depth and Robinson’s ability to high-point a football (I mean, he does have a tattoo proving as much), him being on this roster is at least noteworthy when evaluating a player like Pickens who needs the big play to pay the fantasy bills.

Can Pickens Provide Weekly Production in Year 2?

Given his role in this offense, “safe” weekly value is going to be a tough sell, but I’d buy into “safe” weekly upside. The Steelers fooled around with running Johnson downfield more last season, and … well, it didn’t work. Not only did he have a historic season in terms of catches without a touchdown, he turned 34 deep targets into just 206 yards.

Pickens, on the other hand, picked up 528 yards on his 35 deep looks. Watching this team play, it was clear that Pickens was made to make those big plays while Johnson was a bit out of position, so it’s reasonable to think Pittsburgh will make adjustments and play more to their respective strengths.

MORE: WR Fantasy Football Sleepers To Draft

The downside here is a capped volume ceiling. Johnson is going to continue to demand a heavy target share, and Harris/Freiermuth are stable threats in the short pass game. The Steelers ranked 20th in pass rate last season as a whole, but that ranking dipped to 27th following the Week 9 bye. The most likely outcome in Pickens’ second season is that he is more consistent, but that is a long way from being consistent overall.

Should Fantasy Managers Draft Pickens at His ADP?

It costs you a late seventh-round pick right now to acquire Pickens’ services, and while I think that’s close to right, there are receivers going a round or two later that I find myself ranking ahead of him. My love affair with Jordan Addison isn’t stopping any time soon, and the idea of getting a player with a similar role on a more wide-open offense in Gabe Davis is something I’d rather do.

That said, you can be sure I will be rostering Pickens in DFS when the matchup is just right, and I have no problem if you draft him as a player that garners weekly Flex consideration.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles