The University of Georgia is returning an inordinate amount of their receiving production from the 2020 season. In 2021, the Dawgs have 11 of their top 12 receiving yard producers returning. Tre’ McKitty is the only player that has moved on from the top dozen in production for UGA and the production of the top end of the core increased significantly with JT Daniels at quarterback in the last 4 games. There is certainly a lot to be excited about for Kirby Smart and Todd Monken’s offense when it comes to the passing game. Today we look at the top Dawg receivers by the numbers the last 2 seasons and project 2021 totals for the top target for JT Daniels based on the trend of the last 4 games of last season.
Pickens burst onto the scene as a freshman, quickly becoming Jake Fromm’s go-to target in 2019, especially after the injury to Lawrence Cager. The Hoover, Alabama native racked up 727 yards and 8 in his first season and had a lot of people anticipating a monster year in 2020. Inconsistency at the quarterback position and learning a new offense during a pandemic made the reality of 2020 less exciting than what was anticipated, but in only 10 games, Pickens still finished 2nd on the squad with 513 yards and tied for 1st with Kearis Jackson with 36 receptions total. In the last 2 seasons, George Pickens has accounted for 22.29% of Georgia’s receiving yards and 31.11% of their touchdowns through the air. In the 4 games with JT Daniels last year, Pickens had 373 yards receiving on 23 receptions and 4 touchdowns. That rate of production extrapolated over 12 games in 2021 would come out to a projected 1,119 yards on 69 receptions and 12 touchdowns. This would make Pickens the only Dawg to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark other than all-time great Terrence Edwards.
Pickens has all the talent in the world. Now, he has a quarterback in JT Daniels that has the mindset of getting him the ball whenever it is conceivably possible. In JT Daniels first press conference after the win over Mississippi State in 2020, he expressed about Pickens and Jermain Burton, “if you’re not going to throw it to guys like that, then why recruit them?” Music to ears of Dawg faithful everywhere. Also, with there being so many weapons on the perimeter of Georgia’s offense in 2021, it will be difficult to teams to always double cover Pickens or dedicated safety help over the top. I expect to see the Dawgs move Pickens around, utilize him in some motions, and also hit the star junior receiver on a lot of intermediate routes as well. Arian Smith and Jermaine Burton are going to take the top off of the defense and there will be room to operate between the linebackers and safeties and JT Daniels has proven those are throws he is not scared to make.
There is no doubt, barring any kind of significant injury, that this will be Pickens last year in Athens. Hopefully the former 5 Star from the Yellowhammer State has developed even more emotionally and in his knowledge of Todd Monken’s playbook this offseason to go along with his incredible physical abilities and instincts. If Pickens is completely bought in and has his head in the right place, the potential to have an all-time great season as a receiver for the Dawgs is there. Every championship team in the CFP era has had a wide out that everyone in the stadium knows the ball is going to on key downs and the defense still can’t do anything about it. George Pickens can be that guy for Georgia in 2021, and he needs to be.