Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Can the scouting report of Tennessee Volunteers OT Darnell Wright land him near the top of the 2023 NFL Draft offensive tackle group?

Tennessee OT Darnell Wright isn’t yet a household name on the 2023 NFL Draft stage, but that may soon change if he can complete his scouting report. In a wide-open offensive tackle class, Wright has the opportunity to ascend and take a top spot. And as his path to this point shows, he has the talent as well.

Darnell Wright NFL draft profile

Ever since he put on a helmet, Wright has been on a collision course with the NFL draft. He was a five-star prospect and a top-five overall recruit coming out of high school in 2019. He had scholarship offers from all of the blue bloods — Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson — but instead chose to play for the University of Tennessee.

Since arriving at Tennessee, Wright has only kept climbing. He started seven games and played in 11 as a true freshman, earning Freshman All-SEC honors. He then became a full-time starter at right tackle in 2020. And in 2021, he moved to the blind side, starting all 13 games at the left tackle spot.

Wright has shown a lot in his time at Tennessee. He’s displayed versatility, reliability, and high-end physical talent. But diving into the details, does Wright — a massive and dominating physical spectacle — have a future as an NFL starter? That’s what we’re here to figure out.

  • Position: Offensive tackle
  • School: Tennessee
  • Current Year: Senior
  • Height/Weight: 6’6″, 335 pounds

Darnell Wright scouting report

In the NFL, where nearly every edge rusher is one of the best athletes on the planet, offensive tackles have to have enough in their tool box to match. Not just size, length, and athleticism, but also proper technique, hands, and leverage. It’s an equation of the unteachable and the intangibles. How does it all add up for Wright?

Wright’s positives

As you’d expect from a former consensus five-star recruit, Wright passes the eye test. At 6’6″, 335 pounds, he has excellent height and weight, with a massive frame that stores ample amounts of power. He also has great length, which he frequently puts to use in his game.

For his size, Wright shows off impressive athleticism. He’s quick out of his stance, and showcases exceptional lateral explosion off the snap. He can quickly snap into position when responding to opponents and is an amped-up mover for his size. Wright owns great initial burst heading to the second level and features impressive short-area athleticism. He can get great depth on his kick and glide across the edge with smooth lateral shuffles. Moreover, he has enough corrective athleticism to recover after initial losses.

Wright can cover ground fairly efficiently in short ranges with long strides, and he’s also nimble and fleet-footed for his frame. But beyond that, Wright brings elite overall power capacity. He stores devastating potential energy and knock-back power, and can shock even larger defenders at contact, stonewalling opponents and halting momentum instantly with strikes. Going further, Wright can reload his arms and re-exert power with impressive suddenness and force.

The Tennessee OT can channel power through leg drive and move defenders off their spot. He effectively drives power up through his base at the contact point, but can also generate incredible power with hip rotation and upper-body torque. Wright can lock out defenders with ruthless torque on run plays and control pass protection reps with that rotation.

Additionally, Wright possesses excellent grip strength. He can lock down rip moves with impressive consistency — especially against smaller defenders — and maintain his anchor even against resistance. Wright has the core strength to keep defenders within his frame and control reps, and he can redirect momentum when opponents lose their balance. Furthermore, Wright’s able to latch and tug down opponents with great force.

Darnell Wright
Sep 18, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Josh Heupel congratulates Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Darnell Wright (58) during the first half against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Neyland Stadium. Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Balance and leverage can be an issue at times, but for his size, Wright is very comfortable leaning and playing beyond his center of gravity. He can create controlled leverage to channel force into blocks. He appears to have good knee bend capacity as well. He can naturally lower himself and manage leverage.

Another impressive trait for Wright, considering his size, is his hip flexibility. He’s able to adjust his initial angle of engagement and flip his hips to redirect defenders in space. Moreover, the Tennessee OT experiences little delay when flipping his hips at the apex to wall off defenders.

Wright still has room to improve both his hand usage and footwork, but he has promise in both areas. The Tennessee OT flashes independent hands and is active when gathering rushers. He’s very violent resetting his hands and can actively combat sequential rushing moves in rapid succession. He has a brutal snatch-and-trap with his upper-body quickness and power capacity, but he’s also shown he can punch and latch inside the defender’s frame, using his core strength to siphon control from his opponent.

For the most part, Wright has good upper-lower synergy and can use his hands and feet in conjunction to neutralize rushers. With his wide frame, he can consistently keep opponents in front of him and tightly extend inside the torso. He has a solid sense of timing, and can flash his hands and bait linemen into extending, before swatting down extensions and latching with force.

With his footwork, Wright shows the capacity to use leverage steps off the snap to achieve the proper angle when blocking rushers. He also displays discretion and awareness with his set angle, based on defender alignment and play call. Wright is fairly patient and disciplined with his positioning. The Tennessee OT can control reps by carefully managing depth, and he actively tempos his footwork to match rushers.

Going further, Wright can continually reset his base to absorb power. He’s an assignment-sound player who’s always alert and is very smooth and consistent picking up stunts. Among other things, Wright actively works to exert physicality and dominate opponents. And as a draft prospect, his starting experience at left and right tackle, as well as right guard, will be valuable.

Wright’s areas for improvement

While Wright has good mobility for his size, he’s not elite in that department. He can’t always recollect his feet quickly after blocking in space. He also lacks elite range and change-of-direction ability. And in space, it can be difficult for him to manage his pad level. With his size, he naturally plays too tall at times. He can’t always sustain blocks with a taller pad level, and defenders can exploit his frame with superior leverage.

Wright’s length is exceptional, but it might not be elite. Longer opponents can work past his arms to latch, rip, and wrench him off balance. Moreover, Wright’s hands can be too wide and high at times. Thus, defenders can get under his pads and slip free. Although Wright has good knee bend capacity, he can stand to bend his knees more at times. He occasionally bends at the waist, which detracts from leverage and prevents power from coming up through the base.

Wright’s hands don’t always strike cleanly, and his width can open up his torso to opposing power. Wright is sometimes overreliant on two-hand extensions and can use independent hands more often. He sometimes gets too grabby and bear-hugs his opponents. He’s also prone to occasional false starts.

Perhaps most notably, Wright’s footwork can be more controlled. He struggles to control weight transfers and maintain balance at times. When defenders get a good first step, he sometimes panics and will turn his hips too early, allowing angles inside.

Current draft projection for Tennessee OT Darnell Wright

At the moment, the 2023 NFL Draft offensive tackle class is hard to read. But early on, Wright looks like a reasonable Day 2 pick, and a stellar 2022 season could vault him into the Round 1 conversation.

On the surface, that might seem brash. But Wright has a five-star pedigree and visible physical talent on tape. For his size, he’s a mobile tackle with the short-area athleticism to match rushers and hold his own. And beyond that, he brings elite power capacity, great strength and aggression, and very exciting flashes with hand usage and footwork.

Wright still has room to improve his execution, and he can better manage his weight and leverage as well. But even here, there are glimpses of promise and traits that generate optimism for Wright’s continued development. Even with his leverage issues, Wright has shown he can play beyond his center of gravity, bend his knees, and lower himself. And with his hands, Wright has shown he can reload and re-exert with ruthless efficiency and force.

Without elite range or change-of-direction ability, Wright may fit better in power and gap schemes, but he has more than enough athleticism to pull his weight in zone concepts. The Tennessee OT has the talent to be a first-round pick. Whether he gets that far remains to be seen, but Wright is very much worth keeping a close eye on.


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