Packers Rookie Already One of NFL’s Best in Key Category

Jordan Love’s emergence as the Green Bay Packers‘ definitive franchise quarterback of the future was buoyed by his young receivers breaking out in 2023.

Rookie wide out Jayden Reed led the Packers in receiving, while Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs made major strides in their second NFL season. But, down the stretch and in the postseason it was fifth-round rookie Dontayvion Wicks who became one of Love‘s favorite targets.

“Wicks was one of the best yards-after-catch receivers in the NFL,” Thomas Valentine writes for PFF. “Showing his real ability as a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He averaged 5.6 yards after the catch per reception this season, 19th-most in the NFL.”

Pro Football Focus lists lists Wicks as the Packers’ ‘secret superstar’ after the 2023 campaign.

“The Packers’ young receiving room exceeded all expectations in 2023,” Valentine writes. “Alongside Jordan Love, and Wicks’ involvement in the offense was a nice surprise. The rookie fifth-round pick hit the ground running and never looked back, catching 39 passes for 581 yards and four touchdowns, earning a 77.8 PFF grade — 26th among all receivers in the NFL.”

It was easy to see Love’s confidence in Wicks throughout the season, with the first-year starting quarterback posting a 117.6 passer rating on the rookie receiver’s 57 targets.

If Wicks’ rookie season is a harbinger of things to come, and given the production of Doubs and Watson in their first full season with Love as the starter, the Packers’ receiving corps could be on the cusp of becoming one of the most prolific in the NFL.

Dontayvion Wicks’ Strong Finish key to 2024 Breakout?

When Doubs and Watson were battling through injuries in 2023, it was Dontayvion Wicks who picked up the slack.

Then, over the Packers’ strong closing stretch, Wicks played a starring role, cashing in on the strong chemistry built with Love throughout the season.

Over Green Bay’s final five games, including two postseason contests, Wicks caught 16 passes for 212 yards with four touchdowns.

“We said prior to last year’s Senior Bowl that UVA’s Dontayvion Wicks was the best combo of size and athleticism in that game,” Jim Nagy, the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl tweeted on January 7. “Today’s two touchdown performance was no fluke. Packers love Wicks’ upside.”

Wicks’ skill-set and strong finish could set the stage for an even stronger 2024.

Aaron Jones Confident in Packers’ Future

Wicks and the Packers’ young receivers are just one of the plethora of reasons there is so much optimism surrounding Green Bay in 2024.

After gaining significant playoff experience, knocking off the Dallas Cowboys and taking the No. 1 seed San Francisco 49ers to the brink, the Packers are even garnering some Super Bowl buzz ahead of Love’s second season as a starter.

Packers running back Aaron Jones isn’t shying away from the lofty expectations for 2024.

“I feel like what we’re building here is special,” Jones told Larry McCarren of Packers.com. “You can feel it. You can see it. The chemistry. The bond. The standard that we’ve set. I feel like with the standard we’ve set, we know what our expectations are when we come back next year. Our standard is high. We have no reason not to reach that standard every day because we’ve shown that we can do it this year, and we showed we can do it game after game after game, we can put it together. We’re going to be dangerous, we’re going to be special.”

Jones rushed for 656 yards with two touchdowns in 11 games, despite battling through injuries throughout the 2023 season. He believes that the pieces are in place for the Packers to take even bigger strides next season.

“This is a special team, a special group of guys,” Jones said. “We’re building something special here. We defied expectations. No one thought we’d be in the playoffs, let alone the second round of the playoffs. It was a great building block for us.”

 

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