There are surprises every year in the NFL and the Green Bay Packers are no exception. There are players who start the season with low expectations and finish with a stronger season than fans and coaches expected.

Obviously, it’s easier to project statistics for “skill position” players, but we have included Packers who play other positions as well. These players are going to have breakout seasons or will have better years than projected.

Here is a look at five Packers players who will exceed expectations in 2023:

Packers Player Who Will Exceed Expectations Number 5: DL T.J. Slaton

T.J. Slaton will be a starter for the first time in his career this season. The former Florida star is set to take over as the team’s nose tackle this season which will allow Kenny Clark to move to the outside.

At 6’4” and 330 pounds, Slaton is expected to occupy blockers and clog up the middle of the field. He played 32 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last season. He made 31 total tackles including two tackles for loss and broke up two passes.

If Slaton has a solid season, the Packers run defense could improve after struggling over the last few seasons. He could also free up Clark, Devonte Wyatt, and the team’s linebackers, De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker, to make more tackles and plays.

Player Number 4: RB A.J. Dillon

A.J. Dillon is coming off a disappointing season and is entering his contract year. Those are two reasons to expect him to exceed expectations in 2023.

Last season, Dillon ran for 770 yards and seven touchdowns. His 4.1-yard average per carry was a career low after gaining 5.3-yards per rush as a rookie and 4.3 in 2021. Unfortunately, Dillon didn’t run with as much power and determination as both he and the coaching staff expected last season.

The Packers may run the ball more frequently with Jordan Love taking over at quarterback. That means Dillon should get more than his share of touches as one of the top two running backs on this team along with Aaron Jones.

Dillon needs to have a good season to earn another contract which is tough for running backs in this era of pro football.

Packers Player Who Will Exceed Expectations Number 3: TE Luke Musgrave

Rookie tight ends tend to struggle but the Packers love what they’ve seen so far from second-round pick Luke Musgrave. The Oregon State alum has impressed in training camp and in the preseason. He has a unique combination of size and speed that could give the Packers a downfield threat at tight end that they’ve lacked since Jermichael Finley’s career ended 10 years ago.

The Packers record for catches by a rookie tight end is just 34 catches set back in 2000. Musgrave has a good chance to obliterate that record if he stays healthy this season. He is expected to be the team’s starting tight end and to see a lot of reps.

When you add Musgrave’s skill set with Matt LaFleur’s desire to involve his tight ends in the offense and Love’s willingness to throw to the middle of the field, you have the ingredients for a strong first NFL season for Musgrave.

Player Number 2: WR Jayden Reed

The Packers selected wide receiver Jayden Reed with their other second-round pick in 2023. The former Michigan State star had a strong training camp and preseason. He earned a lot of reps with the first time as a slot receiver and should be the team’s WR 3 this season.

Reed has great speed and has developed good early chemistry with Love. He has also done a good job of learning the offense in his first NFL training camp.

Expect Reed to have a strong rookie season and to play a significant role in the Packers offense.

Packers Player Who Will Exceed Expectations Number 1: WR Romeo Doubs

Wide receiver Romeo Doubs enters his second NFL season poised to break out. While a hamstring injury slowed him late in the preseason, the former Nevada star should be ready for a big season in 2023.

Last season, Doubs got off to a strong start as a rookie but was slowed by injuries in the second half of the season. He finished his first NFL season with 42 catches for 425 yards and three touchdowns.

Doubs has developed excellent chemistry with Love and is likely to be the player the Packers new quarterback looks for on key third-down situations.

Christian Watson may be the bigger deep threat and may gain more yards, but Doubs will be the receiver who gets open underneath and in the middle of the field to keep the chains moving.

Don’t be surprised if Doubs leads all Packers receivers in targets in 2023 and has a breakout season that exceeds expectations.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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