3 under-the-radar breakout candidates for Packers in 2023

Green Bay Packers tight end Josiah Deguara
Green Bay Packers tight end Josiah Deguara / Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
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Josiah Deguara

After the Packers drafted two tight ends in the 2023 draft, Luke Musgrave (42nd pick) and Tucker Kraft (78th pick), it's easy to fade the skillset and experience of third-year pro Josiah Deguara that will garner him more opportunities in the upcoming season. But he's poised to be one of the "winners" in the transition to Jordan Love.

Now Chicago Bears tight end Robert Tonyan departed Green Bay as a free agent this off-season and Marcedes Lewis remains a free agent. The Packers, no matter who is involved, have prioritized maximizing the youth in their tight-end room; Deguara is the oldest at 26.

Deguara is coming off posting a perfect catch rate in 2022. Despite showing he's a versatile player, lining up as both an H-back and an in-line (Y) tight end, he was third in offensive snaps in the group. 

Deguara's connection with Rodgers never seemed to click and he only caught two passes for eight yards in Green Bay's final eight games of 2022. The rapport with Jordan Love, however, has been unfolding for three years while running on second-team offense and taking preseason snaps together.

Throughout past preseasons, we'd see Deguara hit the flats, receive a quick pass from Love, and shift gears into his exciting catch-and-run abilities.

The tandem exemplified their connection in 2021's Week 18 clash with Detroit. Love in the gun, Deguara lined up off the tackle, they executed perfect timing on a screen pass, and Deguara trotted 62 yards to the house to give Green Bay the lead.

When Matt LaFleur was asked about Deguara taking on a bigger role this season, he certainly gave a vote of confidence.

"I think absolutely," said LaFleur. "He's a guy that has a lot of versatility in terms of whether he's in the backfield, whether he's in a wing position, we can split him out, so it's just him getting those opportunities and then taking advantage of them."

Love likely isn't going to be looking to air out as many passes as Rodgers entertained and instead will favor more rhythm, and timing throws. So often, Love and Deguara have connected on these exact passes and Deguara has undoubtedly earned the trust of the new QB1.

We've also seen Deguara's capabilities as a blocker take shape as his career progresses. He's no Marcedes "Big Dog" Lewis as a blocker but very few tight ends are. Instead, the Packers have routinely lined Deguara up as an H-back and he's delivered noticeable results.

Regularly throughout 2022 when the Packers dialed up the run, they did so with Deguara lined up in the backfield. Being so, many of the Packers' explosive runs were made possible by Deguara's efforts, making key blocks on the wing or leading up the middle.

Deguara taking on fullback responsibilities only makes sense if you think back to why Green Bay drafted him. The Packers saw a player with Kyle Juszczyk potential in LaFleur's offense that runs similar to Kyle Shanahan's offense in San Francisco. Previously with the Ravens, Juszczyk has become more of a household name since joining the 49ers and has been tabbed for seven Pro Bowls in 10 seasons.

Currently, neither Musgrave nor Kraft bring the blocking skills of Deguara and both still need to sure up their confidence as pass catchers early on. Based on off-season work, Musgrave figures to line up as the F-tight end, drawing mismatches out of the slot. Kraft figures to run as a traditional Y-tight end to contribute as both a pass catcher and blocker. 

Deguara's versatility makes him a mismatch coming out of the backfield and Jordan Love has looked his way many times before.

It's a contract year for Deguara and he very well could be on the hot seat if either rookie tight end starts to take over games. Musgrave and Kraft will likely earn additional snaps as the season progresses so expect Deguara to maximize every opportunity while he's leading the trio in snaps.

If the Packers establish a three-headed monster at tight end in 2023, all bringing different strong suits, this offense will cause far more problems than teams are ready for.

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