Green Bay Packers

What Can the Packers Expect From the Fast and Aggressive Dontayvion Wicks?

Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

One year after the Green Bay Packers selected three wide receivers in the draft, it was hard to see them doing the same in 2022. But that’s exactly what general manager Brian Gutekunst did, nabbing Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, and Grant DuBose. Curiously, all of them had better statistical seasons in 2021 than in 2022, which might show a willingness from the Packers to bet on potential and profit from a possible market devaluation.

To understand how good Wicks can be, Zone Coverage talked to Marques Hagans, who was his wide receivers coach through Wicks’ entire career at Virginia. Following last season, Hagans changed jobs, and now he’s the wide receivers coach at Penn State.

Hagans knows what it takes to be in the NFL. He played five seasons in the league with the St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, and the Washington Commanders. According to the coach, the Packers got great value in the fifth round.

“As a learner, he’s very smart,” he said. “He takes good notes and studies to be prepared. He’ll come to the office, draw up plays, and ask questions to have a clear understanding of why we are doing things.”

It’s not common for fifth-rounders to have an immediate impact. However, his personality and ability to contribute on special teams might make it happen.

“He will do it,” Wicks’ former coach assured.

He loves football, and he loves to compete. He has also started on the punt team, so he is going to play special teams, which is a way on the field. If he can stay healthy, I do think he’ll make an impact. Again, I think Green Bay got a steal. [Wicks] is tough. He plays fast and aggressive. He’s tough to bring down after the catch, and he’s so explosive. Great hands and good change of direction. He needs to play faster at the line of scrimmage and get back to being arrogant with his hands.

The Packers don’t have any wide receivers with more than one season of NFL experience, so Wicks enters the league with a real chance of getting playing time. If things go right, he can be the fourth — or even the third — receiver on the depth chart, behind Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and maybe Jayden Reed. He also has an opportunity to develop alongside first-year starting quarterback Jordan Love, which is Green Bay’s plan.

“That’s a little bit of the idea, right?” Gutekunst said after the draft. “I mean, I think that’s important for those guys to grow together.”

Wicks had his best college season in 2021 when he totaled 57 receptions for 1,203 yards and nine touchdowns. As a senior last year, he had 30 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns. However, several things beyond Wicks’ control affected his performance, including a head coaching change — from Bronco Mendenhall, who retired, to Tony Elliott. In general, the offense suffered, going from 34.6 to 17 points per game on average. Even though this combination of factors made Wicks fall to the fifth, Hagans believes he can still have a prolific NFL career. And the fact that he was a part-time quarterback in high school also might help him because of how he understands the game.

“He sees the field really well, especially when it slows down for him. Also, he can throw the ball well for a left-handed quarterback,” Hagans mentioned. “I love this kid, and he is going to have a good career. Going in the fifth will give him that chip he needs to really push himself.”

Analyzing Wicks’ scouting report from The Draft Network, it becomes clear why the Packers liked him so much.

“Wicks is a dynamic weapon as a vertical receiver,” wrote Joe Marino. “He features exceptional ball skills and the ability to stack corners with the speed necessary to get behind them. His success as a route-runner begins with a nuanced release package that quickly enables him to get on top of corners and separate.” With all those traits, the Packers’ management is willing to give him a chance, even with the downgrade in performance from last year and with his problems with drops.

The youth movement might be a risky proposition for the Packers, but the potential to find big-time players is also high. Dontayvion Wicks fits perfectly in this philosophy. His development timeline is ideal for what Green Bay is trying to do, not only this season but for the next two to three years.

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