The Green Bay Packers are in a unique situation this season. They're in a rebuilding mode, yet they have a chance to make the postseason thanks to several players exceeding expectations.
The Packers' front office invested in young offensive skill players through the draft and are being rewarded in a big way. Not only has Jordan Love had some promising moments this season, but so has his very young receiving corps.
Green Bay's pass-catchers are so young that they don't have a wide receiver or tight end who has been in the NFL longer than two years (excluding Josiah Deguara, who is used as a fullback). That's where most of the players on this exceeded expectations list come from, so let's start there.
5 Packers Who Have Exceeded Expectations This Season
1. Dontayvion Wicks
There was a lot of hype surrounding Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and even Samori Toure entering the season. And even though Doubs leads the Packers in receptions (56), receiving yards (646), and touchdowns (8), it's Wicks who has turned heads.
Wicks looks like one of the Packers' most explosive receivers not named Christian Watson. He constantly gets open and makes big plays for his quarterback. Despite battling injuries for several games, he has 33 receptions for 520 yards this season. His rookie campaign has just been the tip of the iceberg for the 2023 fifth-round pick.
2. Rasheed Walker
Before training camp began, many fans and analysts had Rasheed Walker pegged as the Packers' fourth offensive tackle behind David Bakhtiari, Zach Tom, and Yosh Nijman. However, he's been working as their starting left tackle for nearly the entire season.
After Bakhtiari went down with a reoccurring injury in Week 1, Walker stepped in as the starter ahead of Nijman. That surprised a lot of analysts, but he's proven his worth in the long run. It's been rocky, don't get me wrong, as there have been plenty of moments where he's looked overmatched. However, he's steadied the ship recently and is playing the best football of his young career.
He's the 42nd ranked offensive tackle (among 84 eligible players), according to PFF. That may not seem like it's eye-opening, but it's a starting place for Walker who is seeing extensive action for the first time in his NFL career.
3. Carrington Valentine
Carrington Valentine is another player buried on the bench to begin the season. With Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes and Keisean Nixon ahead of him on the depth chart, there didn't seem to be many opportunities for Valentine.
However, whether it's due to Green Bay trading Rasul Douglas or injuries to Alexander and Stokes, Valentine has started ten games this season. He hasn't always been great in those games, but he has had his moments. He plays with a ton of passion and energy, something that can be infectious for his teammates. He could turn into a nice depth player in the Packers' secondary.
4. Zach Tom
The other Packers' starting tackle was expected to be in this position all along. Tom was pegged as Green Bay's starting right tackle following the conclusion of last season after he took over for a struggling Nijman.
Tom flirted with center a bit during training camp, but it never seemed like that was a real possibility. He's started all 15 games at right tackle for Green Bay and is one of their most consistently dependable offensive linemen. He's only allowed two sacks and two hurries on Jordan Love this season, earning PFF's 16th-highest grade among offensive tackles. This may just be the beginning for the second-year pro.
5. Jayden Reed
The Packers may have hit the jackpot with their 2023 NFL Draft class. We are only at the end of their rookie campaigns, but it seems like general manager Brian Gutekunst hit on several picks, including second-rounder Jayden Reed.
Green Bay has a rich history of developing successful wide receivers whom they drafted in the second round. Reed may add to that list. When healthy, it's clear the Packers prioritize him in the game plan. They find ways to get the rock in his hands, whether on reverses, jet sweeps, or in the passing game.
In 14 games this season, he has 54 receptions for 592 yards and six touchdowns plus another 119 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The best part about the Packers' young receivers is that Reed, Wicks, Watson and Doubs all complement each other nicely on the football field.
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