UDFAs Malik Heath, Brenton Cox Jr. and Emanuel Wilson force their way onto Packers initial roster

There was no denying undrafted rookies Malik Heath, Brenton Cox Jr. and Emanuel Wilson this preseason, and now all three will begin the 2023 season on the roster of the Green Bay Packers.

Together, Heath, Cox and Wilson give the Packers three undrafted rookies on the initial 53-man roster, the most kept by the team since 2018. They also extended the team’s streak of at least one undrafted free agent on the initial roster to a staggering 19 years.

Even during a year in which general manager Brian Gutekunst made 13 draft picks, college free agents got a legitimate shot to make the roster in Green Bay. The trio of Heath, Cox and Wilson made the most of the opportunity.

Heath caught a team-high 12 passes for 146 yards over three preseason games. He finished third in yards per route run (per PFF) among receivers with at least 14 targets this preseason while making four contested catches without a drop. He also blocked like a madman, embracing the “goon” role Matt LaFleur likes at wide receiver and allowing him to beat out seventh-round pick Grant DuBose for a roster spot. Depending on the injury situations for Romeo Doubs (hamstring) and Dontayvion Wicks (hamstring), Heath could be on the field and playing snaps for the Packers come Week 1 in Chicago.

Cox led the Packers in pressures (seven), hurries (six) and batted passes (two). One of his batted passes resulted in an interception. He also had a tackle for loss against the run. His win rate as a pass-rusher was 15.4 percent, the fourth-best among rookie edge rushers during the preseason. Despite having five outside linebackers they liked, Cox forced the Packers to do something rare and keep a sixth. If he stays out of trouble and focused on the job, Cox has the talent to become a pass-rushing asset in time.

Wilson led all NFL players in rushing yards (223) and was tied for first in rushing touchdowns (2). He forced 11 missed tackle attempts, the most among running backs, and his 80-yard run was the longest in the NFL during the preseason. He also caught four passes and displayed some potential as a pass protector. Signed in May, Wilson entered training camp as a roster long shot. He exited as the winner of the No. 3 running back spot, giving him a real chance of factoring into the future of the position past 2023.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire