Versatility is a very desired trait at the NFL level, and the more a player can do, the more likely he is to be able to help a team.
Tennessee offensive lineman Darnell Wright is one of the top offensive tackles in this draft class, and he’s is one of the more versatile lineman in the class as well. Wright was one of the best offensive tackles in the SEC at right tackle last year. He also has experience at left tackle and right guard, suggesting that he could start at four of the five positions along the offensive line.
That is, obviously, a very valuable skillset for teams as they try to piece their lines together.
Prospect: Darnell Wright (58)
Games Watched: vs. Florida (2022), vs. LSU (2022), vs. Alabama (2022), vs. Georgia (2022)
Games Played: 47 (12 in 2023)
Best: Size, hands, play strength, competitive toughness, run blocking, versatility
Worst: Kick-slide, pass protection vs. speed
Projection: A starting offensive lineman with positional and scheme versatility.
(Wright is Tennessee RT number 58)
Tennessee offensive lineman Darnell Wright has a good combination of size, athleticism, play strength and versatility to play at the NFL level.
Wright is a thickly-built offensive lineman at 6-foot-5, 333 pounds, but maintains solid athleticism despite his bulk. He has adequate length to go with impressive play strength. Wright is an experienced offensive lineman with 42 total starts at three different positions. He has 27 starts at right tackle, 13 starts at left tackle, and two starts at right guard.
Wright has a thick but flexible lower body, and is able to maintain good hip and pad level throughout the play. He has a wide base to help keep his balance while engaged with defenders and does a good job of maximizing his play strength. Wright has very heavy hands and delivers a good jolt with his punch. He’s often able to disrupt pass rushes with his punch, before locking on and escorting the rusher around the pocket. Wright is careful to keep from turning his hips early and stays parallel to the defender for as long as possible. He has enough athleticism and mobility to mirror speed rushers off of the edge, and plenty of play strength to absorb bull rushes.
Wright is a savvy blocker and does a good job of using his hands to defeat defenders who try to be the “low man”. He frequently delivers a hard club to defenders’ backs, similar to a defensive lineman defeating a cut block. He also makes an effort to win inside leverage and control rushers with good grip strength.
Wright is also a good and versatile run blocker. He has experience in man-gap and zone blocking schemes, and is able to execute both techniques. He’s athletic enough to stay in phase on outside zone plays, and powerful enough to drive defenders when blocking downhill. Wright typically plays with good leverage when run blocking, getting under defenders’ pads before uncoiling his hips and driving them off the ball.
He has a significant nasty streak as a run blocker and pass protector. Wright is willing to block multiple defenders on a single play, looks for work when he doesn’t have anyone to block, and looks to finish his plays with a shove or the defender on the ground whenever possible.
While Wright is a solid – even good – athlete, he has noticeably choppy feet. His kick-slide is anything but smooth and his vertical set is more of a jog backwards. That can make it hard for Wright to redirect against particularly athletic edge rushers who take inside paths, or match their speed off of the edge.
Wright can also let his aggressiveness as a blocker bleed into over-aggressiveness. He’s eager to deliver his punch, but can dip his head into contact as he tries to hit harder than is necessary. That, in turn, can lead to lunging at defenders, opening him up to quick counter-moves or compromising his balance. Wright’s strength was enough to get him out of trouble after lunging, but NFL defenders will certainly take advantage and come up with big plays off of mistakes.
Overall Grade: 8.1
Darnell Wright projects as a starting offensive lineman with positional and scheme versatility at the NFL level.
Wright should be given the opportunity to compete for a starting job at offensive tackle, and he has the upside to win a starting job at left or right tackle for most teams. However, he could also be viewed as an option at guard if a team already has two starting tackles – or if he has issues against speed rushers at the NFL level.
Wright has the strength, athleticism, and hand technique to hang on the edge at the NFL level, however, his footwork could hold him back. If so, a team could consider moving him inside while his footwork develops. It’s also possible that by moving him inside and reducing the area of the field for which he’s responsible could clear up any issues with Wright’s feet. If so, guard may be his best position at the NFL level.
That said, Wright should be able to play in a zone, man-gap, or a diverse blocking scheme at the NFL level. He’s a better athlete than his frame would suggest, and he has all the power his frame does suggest. Whether his future lies at tackle or guard, Wright should be able to help pretty much any offensive line in the NFL.