The following analysis does not reflect the opinions of the Washington Commanders unless specified in a direct quote.
It's time to start preparing for next season! Click HERE to place your deposits for the 2023 campaign.
The Washington Commanders are inching closer to the NFL Draft, and I have some thoughts on the players who could be available to them with the No. 16 overall pick.
Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down some prospect that have stood out to me in my analysis of the Commanders' positions of need. We'll start at the tackle position, specifically with Tennessee's Darnell Wright.
I stumbled on Wright early in the pre-draft process. Before the teeth of draft season started, players like Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson and Broderick jones had already established themselves as the top tackle prospects. Initially, I ignored these players. Early evaluations indicated that they would be gone when the Commanders picked at 16.
As a result, I started my evaluation process farther down the consensus board, looking for unheralded players that could fill needs for the Commanders. Evaluating this way has its pros and cons. A benefit is that you are not biased by the players' names and media reports. A drawback is that you are exposed to lots of players who are not NFL ready, watching hours of bad tape.
However, in this wasteland I stumbled across what I thought was a diamond in the rough with Wright. Slotted as the 10th tackle on most boards, Wright stood out because of his sheer size. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 345 pounds, he was one of the bigger players on the list.
While his immense size is what drew me to him, it also biased me. Players of Wright's size are usually slow and out of shape. But Wright subverted those expectations with quick feet and explosive hips, understood pass pro angles and had overwhelming physicality in the run game.
My early evaluations were confounding. If Wright showed all this ability, why was he so low on public boards? This question led to more questions. Had Wright struggled against top talent?
Against Alabama's Will Anderson, the No. 1 defensive player in the draft, Wright looked to be in total control, taking excellent pass set angles, deployed multiple different pass sets, and showed an elite ability to stop the power rush, a skill some of the top prospects like Jones and Johnson are still developing.
Wright's ability to stop the power rush was impressive, but I still had my doubts. He can stop the bull, but how does he handle speed? B.J. Ojulari from LSU provided an answer. Ojulari is one of the most athletic edge rushers in the class, possessing a wide array of moves and an excellent feel for when and where to use them. Wright did an outstanding job against Ojulari, increasing the speed of his set, beating him to the interception point and adjusting to the inside counter.
After these performances, I was sold on Wright being a top tackle in this year's draft. His combination of physicality in the run game and sharp varied pass sets all indicated high level tackle play. But why isn't he the top tackle in the draft? It is an excellent question, one that has very little to do with his 2022 tape.
As previously stated, his 2023 tape is excellent, but the tape in years prior is ugly. All the polish of 2023 is gone, showing a player far from being ready to play at the game's highest levels. Depending on which evaluator you talk to, this could be a benefit or a colossal red flag. Those who see it as a benefit say it shows he has figured it out, while those who see it as a red flag say he a one-year wonder. I fall somewhere in between. I believe Wright has progressed but might take some time to find his stride in the NFL.
To maximize this type of player and minimize the risk of taking him, I believe Wright would be outstanding in a run-first scheme that allows him to lean into his physical size and explosion while limiting his exposure as a pass protector. Earlier I mentioned how proficient he was in pass protection in 2023. I still believe that he can be excellent the passing game, but he had some bad misses reminiscent of his earlier carrier at the Senior bowl in the one-on-one's against Will McDonald IV. I believe he can figure out the top pass rushers, but it might take time. While he is working through some of those early growing pains, I want to see him push forward and dent defense the way very few in this draft class can.
- Athletic feet for his size
- Knows how to absorb a bull rush
- One year of solid production
- Clamps with his hands
- Looseness to his play (at times plays high, leans on blocks)
- Plays the game on his terms