'Sky's The Limit' For Dontayvion Wicks

The fifth-round selection proved he belonged throughout his first NFL season. What does the future hold for him? 

Year in and year out, without fail, players slip through the cracks in the NFL draft, producing far better results in their rookie season relative to where they were drafted. Green Bay Packers wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks is the latest example of that phenomenon. While the 2023 fifth-round selection did not necessarily have as an illustrious first year as other later-round picks that came before him, or even his fifth-round counterpart Puka Nacua, the Virginia product proved he belonged throughout his first season with his size, sure hands, and separation ability, which should have Green and Gold fans giddy about what the future holds. 

It was not all sunshine and rainbows for Wicks from the jump, though. He missed valuable time during training camp due to a concussion and rarely saw action in the final two preseason games due to an injured hamstring. His first official NFL game, against the Chicago Bears in Week 1, was a forgettable one: two targets, zero receptions. That performance turned out to be a blip on the radar as he steadily improved and became a trusted target of quarterback Jordan Love due to his playmaking ability and his ability to stretch the field. Case in point, he closed the season with a reception of at least 17 yards in 11 straight contests and, for the entire season, led the Packers in yards per target (10.0) and was second in yards per reception (14.9). 

In six starts (15 games), he finished third on the team in targets (58), receptions (39), and receiving yards (581) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (4). Not to mention, he produced the second-best passer rating when targeted among qualified rookie wide receivers (119.9), just ahead of his rookie teammate Jayden Reed (119.3). Wicks was the 19th wide receiver taken in his draft class. And speaking of rookie wide receivers, Wicks' Receiving DVOA of 27.7% was the highest since 2020 among rookie wideouts with a minimum of 50 targets, besting the likes of Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, and CeeDee Lamb. among others. ("DVOA is an 'over expectation metric that takes into account the down and distance and the strength of the defense," as explained by @DevyUsuf.) 

"He's always asking questions, always asking if he's in the right spot," Love said of Wicks ahead of the team’s Week 16 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, according to Packers.com. "I think he's a really good route-runner, really shifty guy, catches the ball really well and he's making plays after the catch. He's getting a lot of YAC right now. He's just a tough guy. He's doing a lot of really good things."

As the season progressed, it became apparent to those outside of the building that Wicks was a separation savant. And at the season’s end, the stats backed that up. He faced 78 snaps of man coverage in 2023 and was deemed to be open 43 times, a percentage of 55.13%. That figure led all qualified wide receivers. 

For those inside the building, Wicks’ ability to separate stood out from the get-go. 

“There’s a couple reps that he had throughout training camp and even in the spring where everybody was like, ‘Whoa. That’s like the old 17 stuff. That other Tae,’ the way he can cross a guy over and create separation,” wide receivers coach Jason Vrable said, according to Bill Huber. “I think there’s certain guys that have it.”

Head coach Matt LaFleur pumped the brakes late in the season in proclaiming that Wicks was going to be the next Davante Adams, a three-time All-Pro honoree, noting that Wicks has “a ways to go.” But LaFleur did see similarities between the two, such as “short-area quickness.” 

“I do think as far the skill set and all that, that you look for in a guy,” LaFleur said, “I think the sky’s the limit for him quite frankly.” 

So how can Wicks take those next steps in the eyes of his head coach toward becoming a wide receiver like Adams? The right mindset. 

“That’s one of the things that made [Adams] who he is,” LaFleur said. “Obviously he’s got the ability in his body and has worked at it at a super high level, but really, it’s the mentality. And that is going to be important for Wicks to up his game to the next level. How intentional is he in the work that he puts in?” 

__________________________

Rex is a lifelong Packers fan but was sick of the cold, so he moved to the heart of Cowboys country. Follow him on Twitter (@Sheild92) and Instagram (@rex.sheild). 

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Comments (31)

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

February 12, 2024 at 01:09 pm

he certainly is sudden into and out of breaks. i also like the way he catches with his hands rather than body.

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cheezyone's picture

February 13, 2024 at 09:29 am

I heard he was a skilled basketball player, like D. Adams.

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T7Steve's picture

February 12, 2024 at 01:31 pm

I think it will be great watching all these youngsters grow into their roles. It's great that they can compete against each other and push themselves to the next level.

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golfpacker1's picture

February 12, 2024 at 01:37 pm

It's amazing we were able to rebuild the WR and TE rooms in 2 years. I really see no reason to waste a draft pick on WR this year.

Although my 7th round sleeper @ WR is Josh Cephus-UTSA. He had over 3500 yards receiving in 5 years there. 6'2 200lbs and 4.5 40. I always like the guys that are called the "QBs best friend because they catch everything."

Hopefully this year we rebuild the Safety and LB rooms, 2 draft picks @ each and 2 FAs.

And strengthen interior O-line in draft. one of either Powers-Johnson or Cooper Beebe would be off the charts good. Maybe we should forego CB @ #25 and take Powers-Johnson if he is there. He could be All-Pro @ OG or OC. He minds me of the OC we should have taken in the draft that we gave to the Chiefs with a bow on him. Creed Humphrey.

The future is blinding for the Packers.

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coolhand's picture

February 12, 2024 at 02:30 pm

I agree. The Packers need to get better up the middle, O line, ILB, safety, and at RB. Wicks has some really wicked moves off the line, A LOT like Adams and he's only a rookie.

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SicSemperTyrannis's picture

February 12, 2024 at 08:46 pm

I don't remember seeing #17 dragging multiple defenders down the field the way Wicks has. Before Musgrave got hurt I was calling #11 WR1 and Musgrave and Wicks tied for #2, assuming that #9 was off the field due to injury.

Wicks has made some nice blocks, too.

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golfpacker1's picture

February 14, 2024 at 12:19 pm

For immediate up the middle and solidify the run defense upgrade, I propose to sign FA Bobby Wagner-Seattle ILB. He led the NFL with 183 tackles and would be $15 million less than what Queen is projected to make. Added bonus is what Walker and the draft LB can learn from Wagner for 2 years.

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dblbogey's picture

February 12, 2024 at 06:07 pm

A quality Safety is definitely a must in the new defensive scheme. Would love 2 OL as well as a CB, and it's time to draft Jones backup and eventual replacement. If we have half as good a draft as last year, we'll be looking good. Oh, and there are 3 draftable kickers this year who were in the 88% accuracy range. Take 1 in the 5th.

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stockholder's picture

February 12, 2024 at 01:46 pm

I'm still for drafting a WR.
With a Draft depth of 17 WRs this year.
Another guy to return punts, will work wonders.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 12, 2024 at 08:44 pm

Some are pushing Malachi Corley as the next Deebo and a YAC guy from the wide-open W.Kentucky offense. Their QB, Austin Reed is another guy to sniff mid-rounds. I like Anthony Gould from Oregon State, later on as a WR/KR. If talent stares you in the face, take it and don't look back.

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Coldworld's picture

February 12, 2024 at 02:51 pm

Physical, incredible burst and short area mobility for a big WR. If only he could catch. Great skills but no good if he caught like his last year in college (which was rarely). That was what I felt about Wicks. Great talent but woeful hands. I was very wrong, happily.

It seems most of the league agreed, however. Yes, he was dinged for his lack of long speed, which is true, but his hands …. Well I’m glad I was wrong, as almost everyone was about Reed’s speed.

Wicks gets his yards with his strength and elusiveness. Adams did the same with his lightning feet. Not the same player type, but Wicks could be close to as good if he continues to perfect his craft as assiduously. Great pick up, great upside. Don’t discount Melton going forward either.

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LLCHESTY's picture

February 12, 2024 at 08:12 pm

It seems strange to say but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he's their #1 in a year or two. Some guys are just so clean it sticks out. Within a year or two his ability to get open vs zone should catch up to his ability vs man. If his work ethic is anything close to that of Adams he'll be a very dangerous WR soon.

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CoachJV's picture

February 12, 2024 at 02:53 pm

LAF is not wrong when he sees a lot of Adams in Wicks... I see it too. He's not the fastest, or most athletic, but he can get separation with his footwork, which was Adams strong point. It's just a matter of time before he's as good.

Our whole receiving corps has promise. Things are bright for the future of our Offense.

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WD's picture

February 12, 2024 at 03:18 pm

Wicks was a pleasant surprise but he is not Devante Adams. I think all our young WRs are diamonds in the rough with a lot of potential to improve. Also ,that young lad off the practice squad that never got any respect. Yes, Bo Melton shined when he finally got a chance. And, how bout the new duo at TE ! Even our RBs catch the ball well. So, who says you have to draft WR's in the first round? So much for that theory. WR and TE are now officially a strength.

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LLCHESTY's picture

February 12, 2024 at 09:43 pm

Davonte wasn't Davonte as a rookie and had to go through a rough 2nd season before you saw glimpses of what he could become.

He also had one more catch for 140 more yards and one more TD than Adams as a rookie. Not bad for a 5th rounder.

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Houndog's picture

February 13, 2024 at 07:59 am

LL,
"Davonte wasn't Davonte as a rookie and had to go through a rough 2nd season". Yeah, no kidding!
Davonte's first two years had some of us wondering whether or not he could catch a cold?

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Leatherhead's picture

February 12, 2024 at 05:57 pm

I really wonder who our Top 4 WRs will be. I'd bet on Doubs and Reed. Watson if he's healthy enough to play most of the games. After that, I think we're looking at Wicks, Melton, Heath.

Doubs-Reed- Watson-Wicks-Melton-Heath? That's a good group, IMO.

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Bitternotsour's picture

February 12, 2024 at 08:04 pm

A lot of guys who are worthy of touches in an offense that will likely be in 12 personnel a lot.

Even at 60/40 pass to run it's a lot of hands to get involved.

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golfpacker1's picture

February 14, 2024 at 12:23 pm

Yeah, but how do you cover them all. It was awesome the last 4 games to see WRs running wide open on the field. A #1 WR would be great but not as important if they are all good.

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LLCHESTY's picture

February 12, 2024 at 09:51 pm

If they're both healthy I think Wicks will finish next year with better numbers than Doubs.

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Bitternotsour's picture

February 13, 2024 at 11:03 am

Doubs has amazing hands and technique. Don't sell him short.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 13, 2024 at 11:45 am

Doubs had a good rookie season, and built on it his second season. Nobody else on the roster can say that. And he led all WRs in snaps (followed by Reed, Wicks, and Watson).

In fact, I'd say that going into the offseason, that's our Top 4.\

Depending on their health, I could see any of these guys as our #1 this year.

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fthisJack's picture

February 13, 2024 at 07:17 am

I agree the WR room is loaded...but I am anxious to see what DuBose has to offer after missing last season due to injury.

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Houndog's picture

February 13, 2024 at 08:08 am

Letterhead,
"Doubs-Reed- Watson-Wicks-Melton-Heath? That's a good group, IMO."
I couldn't agree more, its a helluva' group. Gonna' be some tough competition out there.
I'm wanting to see what Melton and his 4.39 speed can bring with more reps.
Damn! July can't come soon enough!

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ArlenWilliams's picture

February 12, 2024 at 07:26 pm

Thumbs up for them all. The best passing game features good players everywhere.

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Johnblood27's picture

February 13, 2024 at 01:01 am

Do NOT sleep on Grant DuBose!

He has the ability to move into the top 4 WR.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

February 13, 2024 at 08:01 am

Completely agree. It was pretty obvious that Gute was stashing/hiding him this year.
His college tape makes him look like the best contested-catch master on this team, and he played a lot of special teams in college as well. We could be wrong, but I don't think we are.

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Houndog's picture

February 13, 2024 at 08:12 am

Who's the "Thumbs Down Dummy" that's here today?
Get a grip!

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

February 13, 2024 at 08:12 am

Wicks was a 4-star recruit as a QB/WR. Only had three catches as a freshman, but averaged 20 yards per. Lost his sophomore year to a foot injury. But he bounced back to win first-team All-ACC honors in 2021 as a junior. He was fifth in the entire FBS with 21.1 yards per catch and broke Herman Moore's single-season school record with 1,203 receiving yards (57 receptions, 9 TDs. Then he missed two games as a senior with an injury, and his final 2 games were cancelled due to the shooting/murder of 3 of his teammates.

After his junior year, he was considered one of the best WRs who would be available in the 23 draft. He's a steal because bad things happened to him, but his success is not a surprise.
I think he and Watson will be our starters in 2025 unless injuries prevent it.

Reed and Doubs are a terrific 3 and 4, and Melton, DuBose, Heath, Toure are an embarrassment of riches for 5-6.

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LambeauPlain's picture

February 13, 2024 at 09:58 am

Great read, Rex. It is amazing the rookie Wicks led the NFL it getting open in man.

And, I think we saw that Jordan Love is more than willing to throw to the guy who is open vs the guy he likes the best. This stat alone points to a great future for "Mr. Blue Sky" Wicks.

Great pick from one of the two trade downs from #45 to #50 that also netted Brooks and still secured Reed!

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golfpacker1's picture

February 13, 2024 at 10:32 am

This is off topic but I was looking at NFL draft buzz for OCs in 2021 to see what they said and where they ranked Josh Meyers and the #1 center that year Creed Humphrey.

Meyers:
Needs to prove his worth in a straight-ahead running game.
A short-area blocker with limited range and doesn't consistently get to the second level. Will play undisciplined at times, especially in space. Lacks a finishing attitude.
Needs to work on his technique in pass protection, using more consistent leverage and continuing to move his feet.
Isn't an elite quick-twitch blocker and his height causes him to be out-quicked. Leaks inside pressure when his technique gets sloppy.
Flashes the ability to move his man with his hands, but is not yet consistent in this area.

Humphrey:
Pro-day Update
Creed had excellent performance in the athletic testing portion of the Sooners’ Pro Day workout last week. , where he recorder unofficial times of 5.09 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.46 seconds in the shuttle, and 7.54 seconds in the 3-cone drill while posting a 33-inch vertical and a 9-feet, 4-inch broad jump with 29 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Humphrey is the top center in this year's draft, and after a great workout at his pro-day is shooting up draft boards, and could even be the first interior lineman selected. We evaluate him as late a first-round talent but may fall to the second because he is somewhat undersized@ 6'5 320lbs.

How tough was that choice?

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