With the selection of Zacch Pickens in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, two South Carolina natives who suited up for the Gamecocks had been selected (cornerback Cam Smith went 51st to the Dolphins in the second round). The defensive tackle is the fourth defensive lineman from the South Carolina football program drafted in the last four NFL Drafts.
Pickens was a five-star recruit out of TL Hanna High School in the heart of Clemson territory. The defensive tackle spurned the Tigers and several other big-name programs to come to Columbia to play for the Gamecocks. During his four years in garnet and black, Pickens developed into an extremely disruptive defensive lineman who showed an ability to play against the run and against the pass. His baseline ability to do everything well made up for his lack of elite traits and made him a highly coveted prospect at the professional level.
On Friday, Pickens’ life changed forever when he was taken with the 64th overall pick (Round 3, Pick 1) by the Chicago Bears. Now with the Bears, he will compete with fellow 2023 draftee Gervon Dexter (taken 53rd overall) for playing time at defensive tackle as both players are extremely versatile on the defensive front. His best spot on the line is as a three-technique, a spot he should have ample opportunities to man in Chicago as only Justin Jones seems set to see snaps from the league’s worst defensive line a season ago.
Pickens, Dexter, and Jones join free agent nose tackle Andrew Billings as the likely top-4 at defensive tackle for the Bears in 2023, so Gamecock fans should have plenty of opportunities to see their guy be disruptive for a defense that hopes to return to the glory days of the Monsters of the Midway.