At this point, we know how deep the 2022 NFL Draft edge rusher class is. Even so, there are still prospects to discover each day. An underrated NFL Draft prospect who needs more hype around his scouting report is UAB DE Alex Wright. Here, we’ll answer questions about Wright’s game and his NFL projection.
Alex Wright NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive End
- School: UAB
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’7″
- Weight: 270 pounds
Alex Wright Scouting Report
One should never deal in absolutes when speaking about prospects. But often, when watching highly-regarded small-school prospects with weaker schedules, you want to see those prospects dominate, or at least stand out from their counterparts. And when those prospects do have tougher tests, you have to watch to see if they belong.
Wright was never overwhelmed by the competition at UAB. But even in games against BYU and Georgia — teams with more offensive line talent — Wright proved he belonged. And while he doesn’t have double-digit sacks or tackles for loss, Wright was consistently disruptive against weaker opponents. More importantly, he has traits that can be molded at the next level.
Wright’s athletic profile
The physical potential is abundant with Wright. The UAB DE is listed at 6’7″, 270 pounds, but he wears that weight lightly and moves well for his size. Off the line, Wright has good explosiveness, and he has especially solid build-up speed and long-track explosiveness when provided with a runway. Wright accelerates freely and closes ground quickly in the backfield.
Wright has surprising and dangerous range in pursuit. He can cover ground quickly with long strides and corners well for his taller frame. The UAB DE also has the athleticism to surge into gaps and disrupt runs early. He has the lateral athleticism to stunt at different angles, and he can set linemen up with measured twitch.
Perhaps the most impressive trait for Wright is his bend capacity. Wright possesses great ankle flexion for his size. He accelerates around the edge while reducing his surface area, and he’s also proven to have fairly flexible hips. Wright rolls through contact and splices past blockers at tight angles.
Wright’s length provides a great conduit for speed-to-power moves. Moreover, he’s proficient at using that length to help pry himself loose in congestion. His motor runs hot, and he plays with hustle.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Wright has a tantalizing athletic skill set. Even more promising is that he’s shown to build on that foundation. Most notably, as a pass rusher, Wright has shown to effectively multitask while working around the edge. He can pinch the corner and use rip moves to get around the apex, as well as stack counters as he sinks below the tackle.
Wright has a working arsenal of pass-rushing moves — among them swims, arm-overs, bull-rushes, and chop-rip combos. The UAB DE flashes violent, targeted hand usage and can throw linemen off-balance by targeting and wrenching down their hands. Even when he can’t quite free himself, Wright proactively uses his length to disrupt plays, whether that’s forcing backside fumbles or deflecting passes at the line.
In run defense, Wright is similarly strong. He keeps a wide base and a strong anchor, and he has the lateral agility to traverse gaps. Wright’s also shown he can long-arm linemen and establish a half-man relationship on the edge. He generates some push with his power and can blast through unsuspecting blockers. He’s also able to lower his pads and surge into extensions, helping to bring up power through his base.
Areas for improvement
Wright has trouble regulating his pad level and leverage from snap to snap, especially as a pass rusher. With his high-cut, long-legged frame, he comes off the snap too tall too often. He’s too upright heading into contact at times, and this can affect his leverage and limit his force exerted. Blockers can get under his pads, and he doesn’t always have the strength to compensate.
Going further, Wright’s hands, while promising, can be more consistent. He sometimes lacks a plan, and his hands can be more calculated and coordinated. His strikes don’t always land cleanly, and he can more directly stab his opponent’s torso on the attack. Wright can do a better job loading and launching his hands to maximize force.
Wright’s athleticism, while strong, is not immune to questioning. His first step might not be quantifiably elite, as he’s better when he has space to build speed and widen his strides. Of course, Wright could remedy this by being more consistent at anticipating the snap. He doesn’t always get maximum juice on his first step. Additionally, Wright doesn’t always finish successful reps with a sack, and he could stand to get stronger in the NFL.
Among other things, Wright sometimes over-pursues in run defense and shoots past his angles. In open space, his change of direction can be a bit stiff.
Wright’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Wright has long been one of the sleepers in the 2022 NFL Draft edge rusher class. It’s time to lift that label and officially announce his presence as one of the many potential impact players in the group.
Primarily serving as a stand-up edge rusher, Wright has a lot of appealing physical traits. He has good burst, great long-track explosiveness, and exceptional bend capacity for his size. He gets upfield, reduces his surface area, and accelerates as he pinches the corner and surges into the pocket. That bend — especially at his size — is rare and affords him a great deal of upside. On top of that, Wright has proven potential with his hand usage and is also very proactive against the run.
There are some concerns with Wright. His pad level as a pass rusher could be exploited at the contact point. And while he’s a great athlete, he may need to adjust when he plays NFL athletes. He was often able to win on athleticism alone in the C-USA. While his first step is solid, it won’t be quite as dominant at the next level. Wright also has room to get stronger.
Of course, evaluation is always about projecting what players can be, and the UAB DE has a very high ceiling. He may weigh in lighter than his listed weight, but he still has enough size to be a stand-up edge rusher or rush from a three-point stance and stunt inside. Wright’s upside is well worth a Day 2 pick. At his peak, he can be a playmaker in all phases and a dangerous pass-rushing catalyst.
Wright’s Player Profile
It takes a special kind of talent to declare early for the NFL Draft. That’s why it’s even more surprising to look back at where Wright was in 2019. Wright hits the draft stage this year as a true junior, but just three years ago, he was a middling three-star recruit in the 2019 recruiting class. He wasn’t even listed by some major outlets and was barely a top-2,000 prospect on 247 Sports’ board.
Luckily for the 6’4″, 225-pound Wright, one FBS team saw his potential and gave him an offer to play college football in his home state, fewer than three hours from his hometown of Elba, Alabama. That team was the UAB Blazers. Wright made that place his home, and upon arriving, he quickly made himself at home on the C-USA stage.
Wright’s career at UAB
Wright wasted no time making a name for himself in the college landscape. As a true freshman in 2019, the UAB DE amassed 29 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. He was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team for his play, and he set the bar high for his sophomore campaign.
2020 was a bit of a letdown for Wright, something many players experienced in the COVID-impacted year. Starting seven of eight games, Wright logged 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a single sack, and 2 pass deflections. At that point, the buzz began to die down. But Wright fueled it again with a stellar 2021 showing.
In 2021, Wright served as a team captain and started eight of 12 games for the Blazers. He also had his best season yet. Over that span, the UAB DE accumulated 45 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. Wright earned second-team All-C-USA honors for his play. In late December, he officially declared for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Wright’s NFL Draft ascension
It’s been a dramatic ascent for Wright, and it’s not stopping here. Once forgotten in a bustling EDGE class, Wright is steadily gaining steam in the Day 2 conversation.
There are still things to work on for Wright. But for his young age, Wright is already an inspiring player. He has great athleticism for his size and possesses a rare combination of bend and burst. Beyond that, Wright has shown to use his hands effectively, stack rushing moves, and multitask around the corner. And he can work in space and set the edge in run defense.
All in all, Wright checks far more boxes than he misses. There may be questions about how he translates to the NFL level after playing mainly C-USA competition. But even against higher-level teams, Wright made his presence felt and flashed his ability. With a year or two to get stronger, hone his snap anticipation, and keep refining his technique, Wright could be a dangerous two-phase playmaker on the edge.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Alex Wright
Positives: Long, fluid defensive front-seven player who gets a lot of pressure up the field. Mostly stood over tackle at UAB, displays good change-of-direction skills, and easily moves about the field. Rarely off his feet, bends off the edge, and can flatten to get down the line of scrimmage in pursuit. Plays more athletic than his testing numbers, effectively uses his hands to protect himself, and displays a solid burst to the action.
Negatives: Must develop more moves to get off blocks. Rarely used in space and looks unnatural dropping off the line. Turned in a terrible pro day workout.
Analysis: Wright turned in a productive junior campaign, then decided to enter the draft, which was a mistake in my opinion. He’s a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end who must add bulk and power to his game and step up the intensity, or he’ll be looking for a new line of work.
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