The Chicago Bears closed out the second day of the 2023 NFL draft for the team by drafting Zacch Pickens from South Carolina. It was a bit surprising to see the team go with a defensive tackle in two of their three-day-two picks, but they also really needed that much beef upfront.
It also speaks to the idea that Ryan Poles continues to draft the best player available when he is on the clock. So, what do Chicago Bears fans need to know about Zacch Pickens as he enters the NFL?
3. Zacch Pickens is a three-year starter at South Carolina
Zacch Pickens was a well-known recruit, and it was a big deal that he chose South Carolina over some other schools. So, it was no surprise to see that he got onto the field early, even if it was rotationally. He played 224 snaps as a true freshman and earn All-Freshman SEC honors.
Then, he jumped into the lineup and finished with 32 starts for the Gamecocks. Over the course of his career, Pickens wound up playing 1,836 snaps. That included 959 snaps as a run defender, 866 as a pass rusher, and even 11 snaps dropping into coverage.
Pickens also played 272 snaps in the A-gap, 1,469 snaps in the B-gap, and then 93 snaps outside closer to the tackles. This is where things get interesting Gervon Dexter has fewer snaps overall, but the Chicago Bears drafted him ahead of Pickens and Dexter also has the majority of his snaps coming from the B-gap.
Ryan Poles said both linemen are versatile, and while that is true, both of them profile best as a three-technique who can take a snap or two at the one-tech. It will be interesting to see how the team navigates two players drafted in a similar part of the draft playing similar roles.
2. Chicago Bears drafted an athletic pass rusher
If there is one thing thing we can say for sure about Pickens, it is that the upside is there. He was a highly regarded recruit out of high school for a reason, and he continued to win with his athletic traits in college.
Zacch Pickens is a big dude and a big athlete. The arm length is really impressive, and the total package tells you that the Chicago Bears have a player that is going to see his best days in the NFL.
1. Zacch Pickens started to produce more entering the NFL
Pickens won a lot of battles with his first step and his quickness off of the football. However, he never put the full package together in college, and that is why the team was looking at him in the second round.
However, it is good to know that Pickens did get better every year during his four-year career. To be fair, he did not play much as a freshman, then 2020 was the COVID-shortened season. So, the sample is mainly just two seasons.
However, Pickens excelled. He went from a 5.4% run stop rate up to 6.2%. More than that, his pass rush win rate improved from 8.4% to 12.3%. His pass rush productivity score went from 11.5 to 16.3, per PFF. In total numbers, his pressures went up from 14 to 19.
There is a strong case to be made that the best days are ahead of Zacch Pickens. He has the pedigree going back to high school. After two years of easing in, he improved, and is coming off of his best play, and he showed that the athletic ability is there. If Pickens can buy into the coaching staff, they could guide him to a strong NFL career.