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Bucky Brooks tabs Packers’ Devonte Wyatt as a breakout candidate

The defensive lineman was a first-round pick of Green Bay’s in 2022.

Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Every summer, football analysts put their names on the line by attempting to predict the upcoming NFL season. Bucky Brooks, a former NFL scout and player who now works with NFL Network, has done so by publishing his “All-Breakout Team” list, which focuses on young players who are expected to take that next step in the 2023 season.

The lone member of the Green Bay Packers on Brooks’ list is former first-round pick Devonte Wyatt, who was drafted out of Georgia last season. Here’s what Brooks had to say about the defensive lineman:

Green Bay’s transformation from an offense-centric squad to a team sparked by its defense could hinge on Wyatt’s development as an interior disruptor. After contributing in Year 1 as a rotational player behind Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry, the 6-foot-3, 304-pounder should make his mark as a sturdy run stopper with pass-rushing skills. After posting eight pressures, five quarterback hurries and 1.5 sacks in a backup role, Wyatt could double or triple those numbers as a full-time starter at defensive tackle.

It’s hard to argue with Brooks’ justification. With the loss of starting 3-4 defensive ends Jarran Reed and Dean Lowry in free agency, no Packer is expected to see a higher snap count from 2022 than Wyatt — aside from quarterback Jordan Love and maybe Rudy Ford at safety. Through two media-open OTA practices, Wyatt appears to be in the lead for a starting role at defensive end this year, along with Kenny Clark — who will likely be displaced from nose tackle for T.J. Slaton in base 3-4 looks.

In total, that trio of defensive linemen only played a combined four snaps together in 2022, a number that is certain to rise this upcoming season. As a rookie last year, Wyatt played only 23 percent of the defense’s total snaps, though, all four of Wyatt’s 20-plus-snap games in his rookie campaign came in the final six weeks of the season.

Hopefully, the 25-year-old freak athlete will get more chances to see the field this season. When he was in the game in 2022, Wyatt looked like the most explosive defensive lineman on the Packers’ roster and was arguably already the team’s best disruption player on a per-snap basis.

Other than Wyatt, here are a few other nominations I have for potential Packers breakout players:

Jordan Love, QB

Based on the Packers’ actions this offseason, it seems like they think Love can be the guy in Green Bay long-term. They wouldn’t have pushed Aaron Rodgers out if they didn’t think he had a chance. If Love is the guy, he almost certainly is going to be the bright spot of the season.

Christian Watson, WR

If you count Watson’s post-Cowboys-game stretch last season as a breakout, go ahead and scroll to the next name on the list. While he did post some solid numbers in the second half of 2022, Watson still only had 611 receiving yards in his rookie season. If he can consistently get open against man coverage, as he did from the Cowboys game on, Watson will be a nationally respected name by the end of 2023.

Zach Tom, OL

Tom is currently getting looks at right tackle, right guard and center in the Packers’ summer practices and is actually getting some nods over Yosh Nijman, Green Bay’s returning right tackle who signed a second-round tender as a restricted free agent this spring. Tom started five games last year, but might end up being a 17-game starter this season.

Lukas Van Ness, OLB

By all accounts, Van Ness is having a great stretch of practices so far and should get an early look as a starter with Rashan Gary (ACL tear) still unable to practice with the team. If Gary isn’t 100 percent this season, there’s a decent chance that Van Ness could be the Packers’ best designated pass-rusher in 2023.

Rudy Ford, SAF

As I mentioned earlier, Ford is currently “starting” at safety with the ones in practice for the Packers. Last year, he was a spot starter when Darnell Savage was benched, but now has a chance for real playing time with Adrian Amos out of the picture. It’s worth noting here, though, that Jonathan Owens and Tarvarius Moore, two veteran free-agent signings, are breathing down Ford’s neck for a chance to start.

Let us know if you have other Packers breakout nominations by scrolling down to the comments and contributing to the conversation.