Last season the Green Bay Packers second-first round pick, Devonte Wyatt wasn’t noticeable often. After being selected 28th overall in 2022, it was noted that Wyatt could be a project pick. There was no pressure to produce immediately. So, Wyatt could hypothetically hang back for a season to perfect his craft at the NFL level. This of course, didn’t stop criticism of the pick. So far, in 2023, it’s looking like maybe, just maybe, Brian Gutekunst knows what he’s doing.
If you’re a fan of hockey or baseball, you’re very familiar with the concept of draft pick development. In those sports, a first-round pick could take years to develop. They might spend a few years in the minor leagues before you even see them don a pro jersey. In the NFL however, you hope to see your first-round pick contribute immediately. The Packers have shown lately that they like to be the exception to this expectation. After all, our only two opening-day starting Quarterbacks of the last 15 years sat a few years before starting. It helps these players adapt to the pro level easier when the pressure to produce is low.
From the moment Training Camp began for 2023, it was noticeable that Devonte Wyatt had improved. Within the first few practices, Wyatt had become a one-man wrecking crew. In one-on-one pass-rushing drills, Wyatt was pushing aside and even knocking over offensive linemen. He was showing the mix of power and speed that was noted in his draft notes. Even during team periods, he was besting starting offensive linemen to get into the backfield for would-be sacks. He just seemed so much more comfortable out there. When asked, Wyatt stated that he’s a lot more focused now, and not as stressed as he was in the 2022 season. It’s now time for him to take those next steps.
Off and running in 2023
Starting year 2, Devonte Wyatt was very disruptive vs. the Bears on Sunday. He was credited with 1.5 sacks. This matched his entire rookie season total. He also had six total QB pressures. He totaled eight his entire rookie season. These plays were not flukes either. Wyatt showed an ability to quickly escape block attempts using his hands and speed on just about every pressure.
One big takeaway I had from Sunday was that Devonte Wyatt never seemed to take his eyes off the Quarterback in play-action. This was huge in the effort to contain a slippery Quarterback like Justin Fields. It’s noticeable in Wyatt’s big third-quarter sack of Fields that he kept his pursuit of the QB. He seemed completely unphased by the play-action and went right for the sack.
While this could’ve been part of the game plan, if you find yourself in the backfield, stay on the QB regardless, it still showed excellent discipline by Devonte Wyatt. Out of the remaining 13 Quarterbacks the Packers will face this season, only about 3-4 are considered mobile Quarterbacks. So, that run threat won’t be as high. Given Wyatt’s explosiveness, he could find himself at the Quarterback a lot more often.
Last year, unless you were a Packer or Georgia fan, there’s a chance you didn’t know who Devonte Wyatt was. This year, I think that’s going to change. When I look at the Packers defensive line, for the first time in years, I see explosiveness. It used to be Kenny Clark and a few guys that might reach the Quarterback a time or two. It almost felt like the defensive line was there to take up space and eat blocks so the linebackers could finish the job.
Not this year. With the addition of Karl Brooks and Colby Wooden, this defensive line is hungry and explosive. After Kenny Clark, I fully expect Devonte Wyatt to be the next top defensive lineman on this team. His ability to use his speed and power to elude offensive linemen is going to give opposing offenses fits.
If I were to put a number on my expectations of Devonte Wyatt this season, I would put him at around 7 sacks. Perhaps that seems low given that he has 16 games remaining this season. Well, that’s because his biggest competition is going to be those around him. Wyatt has Rashan Gary looking to have a career year rushing the QB as well as three rookies hoping to make their impact in the pass rushing game as well.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a defensive lineman be a sack machine for the Packers. It’s about time that position becomes a major pass-rush threat once again with Devonte Wyatt.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.