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Mel Kiper Jr. projects Darnell Wright to go mid-first round

Wright has emerged as perhaps Tennessee’s top prospect.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Darnell Wright opted to skip his ‘super’ senior season at Tennessee, and that appears to have been a good decision. Wright gained a lot of fans in the draft community during the season, putting together a really nice season protecting Hendon Hooker. Now, he appears set to become a first round pick.

Most mock drafts now project Wright to land somewhere in the first round, and you can add Mel Kiper Jr. to that list. The ESPN NFL Draft analyst has the tackle prospect coming off the board at pick 16 in his pre-combine mock.

16. Washington Commanders: Darnell Wright

This is the end of a mini-run on offensive linemen, with four projected in seven picks from Nos. 10 to 16. It’s a really solid class. Wright has the most experience of the bunch. He started 42 games for the Volunteers, with 27 at right tackle, 13 at left tackle and two at right guard. That versatility is attractive to NFL teams, though I expect him to stick at right tackle at the next level.

Wright, a former 5-star prospect out of West Virginia, committed to Jeremy Pruitt back in 2019. He became a mainstay on Tennessee’s offensive line nearly instantly, slotting in a right tackle. Wright played left tackle during the 2021 season, but kicked back over to the right side for 2022.

In total, Wright played in 47 games for Tennessee, starting 42 of those. In nearly 900 snaps at right tackle as a senior, Wright didn’t allow a single sack — one of the many reasons why we’re now seeing first round buzz.

Another note from Kiper’s mock? No Jalin Hyatt. The Biletnikoff Award winner was left out of his first round projection, but we’ll see if that sticks following Hyatt’s NFL Combine performance this weekend. Hyatt will be one of the main attractions, set to test the 4.2 range in the 40 yard dash.

Wright will be in action on Sunday in Indianapolis. Hyatt will take the field on Saturday.

The NFL Draft is set for April 27th-29th.