Packers Breakout Candidates: 5 Players to Watch in 2024

These five players could help fire the Packers to a Super Bowl title.

Green Bay’s new additions are stirring up plenty of excitement ahead of the 2024 season, with free agency splash signing Xavier McKinney leading the safety room, and another talented rookie class settling in.

But if the Packers are to kick on from last year and establish themselves as true contenders, it will more likely be improvement from returning players that makes the biggest difference.

Here are five prime candidates for a breakout season in 2024:

Christian Watson

At the wide receiver position, there were plenty of options to choose from.

Just two days ago, head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters Romeo Doubs had an “outstanding spring”, going on to say: “I can’t think of a bad day he’s had out there”.

Jayden Reed broke the franchise rookie record for receptions in 2023, and the hype is building ahead of his sophomore campaign. Jaire Alexander recently said of Reed: “He reminds me of a young Randall Cobb… but he’s better.”

Dontayvion Wicks flashed elite skills in his somewhat limited playing time as a rookie as well, but ultimately, Watson is the most unique, and has the biggest upside of any Packers receiver.

He took the league by storm in the second half of his rookie year, and when Watson was healthy in 2023, the stratospheric potential remained evident.

With persistent hamstring injuries now hopefully behind him, a rising star in Jordan Love at quarterback and a handful of running mates to draw attention away, Watson could have a big 2024.

Luke Musgrave

Fellow second-year tight end Tucker Kraft also has a fair shout, although his pec injury could mean a slower start to training camp and therefore the regular season.

Musgrave had his own injury problems, mostly the lacerated kidney he suffered in the Packers’ November win over the Chargers, but showed why he was a top-50 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft as a rookie

The former Oregon State Beaver has rare traits, in particular his receiver-like speed. Green Bay has so many toys for LaFleur to play with on offense, and the creativity with which he gets the ball in his pass-catchers’ hands is impressive.

Musgrave’s first NFL touchdown versus the Rams was a perfect example of this. If defenses get too locked in on the Packers’ collection of talented wide receivers and forget about Musgrave, he will make them pay.

Devonte Wyatt

A constant menace as a pass rusher, without the stats to truly show it, Wyatt figures to be a big factor in 2024.

Jeff Hafley’s new defensive scheme should allow Green Bay’s defensive linemen to focus more on penetrating and disrupting, rather than plugging gaps. This will be music to Wyatt’s ears as he looks to find another gear this season.

Wyatt was an over-aged rookie and is already 26 years old entering his third year in the NFL. The expectation was he would be able to make a splash right away, especially as a first round pick, but that has not quite transpired.

It is fair to give Wyatt the benefit of the doubt after having Joe Barry as a defensive coordinator for his first two years, but this will be a pivotal season for him.

Quay Walker

Walker was picked before Wyatt in the same draft, and similarly will be hoping to make the leap in year three.

If the linebacker progressed in his second season, it was not anything groundbreaking. Like Wyatt, he will be hoping the change in scheme will be beneficial, turning him from a read-and-react linebacker, which never suited him, into a downhill, attacking force.

After a shakeup at the position this offseason, Walker is now the player with the most starting experience in Green Bay’s linebacker room.

He will have plenty on his plate as he looks to be a leader, wear the ‘green dot’ and be the communicator on defense, as well as improve his own game after two seasons which have been mediocre at best. The 2024 campaign will be telling as to just how good Walker can become.

Carrington Valentine

The talk of OTAs and minicamp, Valentine appears primed to hit the ground running in his second season and compete aggressively for a starting spot at cornerback opposite Alexander.

Thrust into the lineup regularly as a rookie seventh-round pick, Valentine took his lumps but overall acquitted himself well, and has put on significant extra poundage in the offseason to aid his physical style of coverage.

LaFleur was full of praise for Valentine. On the second-year corner’s offseason, he said: “It’s been outstanding. We challenged him to put on weight after the regular season, he came back and definitely looks bigger”.

Between Alexander, Valentine and Keisean Nixon, Green Bay’s cornerbacks will annoy the hell out of opposition receivers if nothing else.

 

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @MarkOldacres

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5 points
 

Comments (26)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

June 14, 2024 at 06:50 am

IF Watson and the Packers really have his hamstrings figured out and Watson is able to play 16 or 17 games at close to 100%, this offense is going to be so fun to watch AND scary for opposing defenses. Even those who can't stand Gutey are going to HAVE to give him his "Kudos".

Looking at the skill position players this team has EVERYTHING. They have the burner outside in Watson who we've seen when healthy can be a nightmare for a defense. He's blow by you for a bomb, or take a short pass 70 yards in a blink. They have the do everything, line up anywhere guy in Reed who IMO reminds me of Greg Jennings...At least a little. They have the guy who is Mr. Reliable in Doubs who has the strongest hands on the team and can hold onto any pass in his area code. And possibly my favorite, Mr. Wicks who even as a rookie was running routes with such precision it made veterans jealous of his skills.

At TE they have Musgrave and Kraft who have a chance to be a more modern version of Gronk and Hernandez. Luke figured out how to stay on his feet by the end of the year last season, and Kraft, well he seemed to just GET IT from the get go once given a chance. The Packers FINALLY have a TE...Well actually TWO TEs!

At RB they have the best of both worlds with Jacobs. He's fast enough to do much of what Jones could do, but stronger and bigger. I'm really looking forward to watching Jacobs in this offense. A TRUE 3 down RB. But what I'm absolutely giddy about is Marshawn Lloyd. This kid is Tyler Ervin, Aaron Jones, and Jacobs all rolled into one. I think we'll see some very cool plays involving Lloyd, just like we did with Ervin a few years ago.

Yeah, we have LOTS of potential breakout candidates, especially on Defense. But what I'm most excited about is this offense breaking out all over opposing defenses all season long. You tell me...Just exactly HOW can you stop ALL of that? This bunch will have THEIR OWN SI cover very soon one day. Just like that bunch in 2011...

9 points
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T7Steve's picture

June 14, 2024 at 07:51 am

"Just exactly HOW can you stop ALL of that?"

Have you checked out Dusty's passing chronicles this week, Nick? Even if you just watch the re-plays, it's so exciting. It seems every play he details, there's always at least another wide-open receiver Love could choose. This week Dusty reviewed the KC game he went to and showed a bonus TD pass play to Watson.

Those reminders sort of get me tingling. They were just getting into a groove and were a matchup hell for KC and I bet they were glad they got knocked off by the 9ers because the Packers would have been their worst nightmare.

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NickPerry's picture

June 14, 2024 at 01:35 pm

I'm right there with you Steve...Can't wait for this season to start. This sort of feels like it did in 1994 when you KNEW they were building something special.

-1 points
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Vachio's picture

June 14, 2024 at 07:56 am

My thoughts exactly. The Packers have so many weapons, if a defense focuses too much on any aspect or player, they're going to pay dearly for it. Load up to stop the run? Good luck covering Watson and Doubs down the field. Double up Watson? Good luck covering Doubs, Wicks, Melton, Reed, Kraft, and Musgrave. Play prevent to contain all the WRs? Say hello to Jacobs, Lloyd, and Dillon breaking off big chunks of yards.

Opposing DCs ain't getting a wink of sleep on Packers week.

4 points
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DoubleJ's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:38 am

"Even those who can't stand Gutey are going to HAVE to give him his "Kudos"."

People like stockholder will still find a way to hate Gute by moving some goal post or saying he got lucky by players falling to him, etc...

I do agree that this offense has a ton of potential. In many ways I don't think we have seen an offense with as much explosive potential since 2011. Now they just have to have guys stay healthy and catch the ball.

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Cheezehead72's picture

June 14, 2024 at 06:54 am

On another note the Jaguars did not do the Packers a favor signing Lawrence to a contract that averages$55 mil per year. I believe the Packers are going to have to get close to that or offer Love more guaranteed money.

3 points
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TheTaxiSquad's picture

June 17, 2024 at 01:31 am

In my mind that’s really the only reason to want this done as soon as possible. That number is only going to go up. If that were not part of the equation, I would be OK with the Packers waiting until the bye or the end of the season even. He still has a pretty small sample size. And I don’t buy all the talk about it effecting the locker room or Love’s focus.

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Untylu1968's picture

June 14, 2024 at 06:54 am

Can Love be considered a break out player? After he signs his lucrative contract and comes through with being one of the top MVP candidates on the season, he should qualify.

-2 points
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TheTaxiSquad's picture

June 17, 2024 at 01:23 am

I think his breakout party was the last part of last season

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GregC's picture

June 14, 2024 at 07:41 am

This is a good starter list. It's fun to think how many more players on this team could potentially have breakout seasons. Some of them are mentioned in the article, and there are a bunch more who are not included here because they didn't play for the Packers last year. Xavier McKinney and Josh Jacobs are established players, but Javon Bullard and Marshawn Lloyd could be big contributors as rookies.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

June 14, 2024 at 10:04 am

I am looking forward to what Bullard does too. I think he can be very effective in the slot and in the box, although his skillset more closely matches Xavier as a Post Safety. But McKinney said he is very comfortable playing in the box too.

Given Hafley's stated objective to have the Safeties be interchangeable, depending on the opponent bodes well for Bullard. Williams and Oladapo are also intriguing prospects. I think Oladapo could be a surprise at the slot.

Nixon is going to be starting slot...but he's going to get competition he did not have last season. Although, Nixon only began to display his DB prowess last season. His upside looks impressive too.

DB room is packed with potential and possibilities/combinations galore.

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Packer_Fan's picture

June 14, 2024 at 07:48 am

My breakout candidate is the whole defense. We have been eliminated from a defense three years in a row with a defense that can't get off the field late in the fourth quarter.

We need to wrap up Kenny Clark with an extension to free up cap space next year for well selected free agent signing.

We have a two year window where we won't have to break up the offense and we better be about winning the Super Bowl.

I feel good about the next two years because of the Hafley signing.

And I get to go to the Houston game. Can't get much better than that.

1 points
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Cheezehead72's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:03 am

I do not disagree with you because it will be good to keep Clark for 3 to 4 more years. But which contract is more needed to get done first, Clark or Love.

I am just looking for opinions.

1 points
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Untylu1968's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:15 am

Love 100%!!

2 points
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GregC's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:16 am

I heard that there has been progress on the Clark contract, but it probably won't get done until after the Love contract. When Love's contract is signed, they will know how to structure Clark's contract.

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T7Steve's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:23 am

That makes too much sense. I think that Clark is going to have a breakout season. This will be the first time they won't be able to dedicate two offenders to him on virtually every play.

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 14, 2024 at 10:16 am

I too think Mr. Dependable (he's only missed 7 games in 8 years) is going to soar in this D.

To think he is still in his prime at a young 28...arriving in Green Bay as a 20 kid!

One of Ted's top draft picks, for the first time in his pro career, he's going to be unleashed as an attacker, not a confined as a plugger.

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DoubleJ's picture

June 14, 2024 at 08:42 am

"We need to wrap up Kenny Clark with an extension to free up cap space next year for well selected free agent signing."

Clark counts $13.7M against the cap next year in dead money due to the use of three void years. That isn't much overall.

Before cap rollover and the Love extension the Packers have $47M in cap space next year with 53 players under contract but 2 will be FA due to their contract being void years. They have plenty of space and will probably have upwards of $60M to begin the offseason, before looking at the Love extension. Remember they have $28M in cap space right now so carrying $13M over is a good possibility.

-1 points
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splitpea1's picture

June 14, 2024 at 11:12 am

"My breakout candidate is the whole defense." Sounds good to me! After the shackles of the passive Barry defense have been removed, then maybe we'll finally be able to see the full potential of these players. And I honestly can't wait to see the rookie safeties in action.

Also one if not both of the second-year tight ends are going to put up much bigger numbers. I wouldn't be surprised to see Marshawn Lloyd "break out" for some big gains, either.

0 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

June 14, 2024 at 09:51 am

Good list of candidates. One of my breakouts is Rome Doubs.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and Love is assisting with the construction. It is clear Rome and Jordan have a potent, growing chemistry between them. They again spent some offseason time together working out.

Doubs is a most articulate, thoughtful, intelligent and focused young man. He showed up big during the playoffs as Love found him open and making contested receptions. He had 10 receptions for 234 yards during the playoffs.

I just love his answer to the constant press focus "who is the #1 receiver?" He said "that will depend on the upcoming opponent."

Another great response: "what are you going to be doing until camp?" Doubs: "Just being a family man and working out."

Love it!

3 points
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GregC's picture

June 14, 2024 at 10:03 am

Doubs is a lot of people's fourth favorite Packer receiver, which seems crazy, but then, you could rank them in almost any order. I watched a YouTube video of Jordan Love highlights from last season and was reminded of how many big plays involved Doubs.

2 points
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TheTaxiSquad's picture

June 17, 2024 at 01:36 am

Doubs is a rock. So steady. I just feel good when the ball’s going his way. But this team is so dang loaded with weapons it makes me giddy!

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cdoemel's picture

June 14, 2024 at 09:50 pm

I share your feelings about Romeo. It’s very cool to see where he’s come comfort wise with the press in the three years. And how thoughtful he’s always been with his responses. Humble, hard working man.

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NFLfan's picture

June 14, 2024 at 10:33 am

Doubs is my favorite. His humility, talent and work ethic are extraordinary. He is a throwback to a different time and place.

2 points
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NFLfan's picture

June 14, 2024 at 11:34 am

Great, in-depth article about Romeo Doub's background.

The Real Romeo, Part I: 'You’ve got to see who I am'
Romeo Doubs is taking these playoffs by storm.

Surviving South Central LA-(My words)

TYLER DUNNE
JAN 19, 2024

0 points
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cdoemel's picture

June 14, 2024 at 09:27 pm

So funny. I just read an article on another site that said Watson was gonna get hurt again and be a bust and we should bundle him in a trade now. Smdh.

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