Reasons Packers Kept UDFA Emanuel Wilson Revealed

Emanuel Wilson, Packers
NFL Analysis Network

Coming into training camp for the Green Bay Packers, one of the competitions that people were keeping a close eye on was for the No. 3 running back spot. The Packers’ top two spots were locked in with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon occupying them. After that, things were wide open.

At times last season, the Packers had only Jones and Dillon activated. But, that was something they were looking to change in 2023. So, a competition was had. Heading into it, Patrick Taylor and Tyler Goodson were considered the favorites for the job.

Those two were expected to compete with seventh-round rookie Lew Nichols for the last spot. Each was going to be given a chance to be the lead back in a preseason game, but a fourth entrant pushed his way into the competition.

Undrafted rookie Emanuel Wilson emerged out of nowhere with a huge performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first preseason game. It was punctuated by an 80-yard touchdown run, but it was certainly not the last we would hear from him.

Wilson ended up being the most productive runner in the NFL in the preseason with 223 yards. He was a big play machine, also leading the league in runs of 10+ yards and forced missed tackles by a running back.

He earned his spot on the 53-man roster based on his rushing abilities alone. For him to cement his status on the roster, he needs to continue rounding out the rest of his game. But, he is already making strides in that department, which is why keeping him on the roster became an easier decision to make.

“His growth and certainly where his upside is was certainly a part of the decision,” said general manager Brian Gutekunst on Wednesday about Wilson.

There is no denying his ability as a ball carrier. But, as the third running back, Wilson will have to impact the game in other facets to ensure he remains on the team. Impact on special teams is one of them.

“He was significantly, probably far away early from the special teams and some of the other nuances of playing running back,” said Gutekunst, “but he really progressed through the last few weeks. He showed some special things in his opportunities.”

A lot of the backfield work is going to be dominated by Jones and Dillon. They are going to be relied upon heavily as the offense adjusts to Jordan Love as the starter. But, should something occur to one of them, Wilson could find himself in a large role.

That is why it is so important that he continues working on other facets of his game. Improving in passing situations as a blocker and receiver would go a long way to him holding down a roster spot long-term.

“He’s still got a long way to go,” said LaFleur. “In terms of all that other stuff, adding value on teams and in pass pro. Just making sure that the trust is there that he will be able to pick up all the exotic pressures that you may see throughout the course of a season. But he’s a guy that’s worked hard since day one, and he’s learned from a good group in front of him.”