With the departure of Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Robert Tonyan, there are a lot of targets in the passing game up for grabs this season within the Green Bay Packers offense. But despite the uncertainty at receiver, in particular, rookie Dontayvion Wicks’ role will likely be somewhat small in his first season.
Within the wide receiver room, Wicks, at least as of now, is the clear fifth option behind Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, and Samori Toure. Couple that with the Packers’ heavy usage of 11 personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back) and 12 personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends, and one running back) under Matt LaFleur, along with how active the tight ends and running backs are in the passing game, and there likely won’t be many targets left over.
During the offseason programs, which included rookie minicamp, OTAs, and mandatory minicamp, Wicks flew under the radar to a degree, with other members of the Green Bay offense garnering the attention. However, in part, this was because of some missed time. Wicks was on the sidelines for the final two open OTA practices.
Like any fifth-round pick, development is needed. But what Wicks has shown is someone who can generate big plays, and he has the ability to create separation. Wicks’ releases at the line of scrimmage allows him to run a variety of routes, making him deceptive and able to win multiple ways. As he progresses, Wicks has the potential to be someone who can be a threat in all parts of the field, and while he was primarily a boundary receiver in college, perhaps some snaps as a big slot with his 6’2″ – 205-pound frame could be in his future. As we know, the ability to line up inside and out is an important aspect of playing receiver in this offense.
"“He’s so intelligent on his visit,” said wide receivers coach Jason Vrable. “The way he was writing on the board and articulating his plays. You can really feel the character and passion of the person and his love of the game. He knew his system inside and out and could communicate, and you can feel that connection, just like I did with Rome and Christian and Samori.“I think he did a tremendous job on his visit, he was himself, and he carries himself in a very professional demeanor. I think he’s a true pro right away. I haven’t had to talk to him about how to study or go about it because he just had that mentality about him.”"
During the 2021 season at Virginia, Wicks averaged an impressive 21.1 yards per reception with nine touchdowns. He would rank 11th out of all eligible receivers in downfield receiving yards as well.
Unfortunately, he was unable to build off that performance as the Virginia offense transitioned to a new system and had inconsistent play at the quarterback position, which resulted in Wicks catching only 30 of his 72 targets and averaging 14.3 yards per catch with two touchdowns. Also, a contributor to his down season were the nine dropped passes he had, according to PFF.
"“A lot of his drops, if you slow-mo them, were him trying to turn before he caught it,” said Vrable. “Maybe your team isn’t winning as much, so you feel like you have to do the extra. It’s typically not the case, just play with your great fundamentals and let the plays happen as opposed to trying to pull your eyes from the ball to make a touchdown score when you just got to catch the ball first. Slowing down, play with great fundamentals like you did on all the other catches. Play within who you are and be the best version of yourself. You can’t be Superman out there and try to win the game every single play.”"
The 2023 season may end up more as a developmental year for Wicks than one where he is regularly contributing significantly. Although not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison given the different makeup of the receiver rooms from 2022 to 2023, for some context, Toure, a Day 3 selection, played just 112 snaps as a rookie, with nine targets. Toure was the sixth receiver for about half the year, then became the fifth option once Sammy Watkins was released.
I do expect that we see more of Wicks, and he has more targets than Toure did as a rookie, given the youth in this year’s receiver room. But I also don’t believe he will be a steady threat in the passing game either, for the reasons mentioned. Not only in regards to Wicks but with Green Bay’s receiver room as a whole, the hope is that with more in-game reps and more practice reps for these young players, the learning curve is shorter, allowing them to make greater contributions sooner.