Following a big senior year, Darnell Wright is set to be one of the first tackles to come off of the board during the 2023 NFL Draft. Wright, a former five-star prospect out of West Virginia, hit his stride in his final year on Rocky Top after kicking back over to his more natural right tackle position.
By now you probably know — Wright didn’t allow a single sack in 2022, keeping star quarterback Hendon Hooker upright for what turned into a special season. He’s started in Knoxville for four straight years, playing two seasons in the Jeremy Pruitt, pro-style era and then another in Josh Heupel’s up-tempo spread attack. Wright manned both left and right tackle at times, even kicking inside to guard for a small amount of time early in his career.
Experience, versatility, length and power — Wright has all the ingredients of a day one starter at the next level, fully capable of being a building block going forward over the next several years.
Size: 6-5, 333 pounds
Arm length: 33 3/4”
40 yard dash: 5.01
10 yard split: 1.81
Broad: 9’ 6”
Wright committed to Jeremy Pruitt in the class of 2019, coming in as top ten overall prospect. The Volunteers held off the home-state Mountaineers as Wright saw immediate opportunity on the Tennessee offensive line. He started nearly immediately at right tackle, but also made a couple of starts at right guard.
As a sophomore, Wright moved full time to right tackle, playing in one of the worst offenses in the country. As Jeremy Pruitt was fired due to recruiting violations, a mass exodus took place inside of the program. Several key pieces left — over 30 players total — but Wright opted to stick around. That gave Josh Heupel a building block on the offensive line as he implemented a completely new offensive approach.
That new approach included using Wright at left tackle, where he started 13 games. As Cade Mays exited the program after 2021, offensive line coach Glen Elarbee kicked Wright over to the right side. The results were undeniable, with Wright not allowing a sack in 2022. He gave up just eight pressures all season long.
As an NFL prospect
Wright’s size and power will be his calling card at the next level. 6-5, 330+ pounds is a lot to handle when Wright is firing off the ball coming at you in run blocking situations, which he’ll get to do more of in the NFL. His powerful drive blocking is his best trait, and his length and adequate athletic ability keeps him stabilized in pass protection. Nobody is going to accuse him of being a dancing bear, but he made big strides as a senior in that category. Wright won’t be the most agile tackle in the league, but his ability to absorb speed-to-power and anchor is pretty special. That all starts with his footwork, which really developed through the years in Knoxville.
The stats do speak for themselves, and a huge outing against Alabama’s Will Anderson really got his hype train rolling last fall. Overall, it’s difficult to poke too many holes in Wright’s game. He’s an easy plug-and-play at right tackle, and shouldn’t escape the top 20.