After selecting Darnell Wright early in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears could not be happier. The former Tennessee standout fits perfectly in the Windy City.
The Chicago Bears’ 2022 season was a turbulent one for multiple reasons. The team was led by first-year coach Matt Eberflus, and it had been made clear through the team’s offseason moves they were taking their time rebuilding.
One of the major concerns expressed throughout the season was the number of hits quarterback Justin Fields has already taken in his short career. There’s an argument to be made that Fields’ tendency to hold onto the football for long periods of time made him more susceptible to hits, but the offensive line as a whole wasn’t great either.
As a result, the Bears prioritized the offensive line this offseason. First, they signed former Tennessee Titan Nate Davis, giving the team a strong guard tandem of Teven Jenkins and Davis. The team also let Sam Mustipher go and is expected to move Cody Whitehair back to the center position in 2023.
Why Darnell Wright Is Exactly What The Chicago Bears Need
Still, there was a glaring hole on the outside of the line. Braxton Jones stood alone as the only starting-caliber tackle on the roster. Seeing this weakness, Chicago drafted Tennessee product Darnell Wright No. 10 overall. The front office made a somewhat controversial decision of passing on Jalen Carter and moving down a pick to take Wright instead.
Wright didn’t receive the same amount of pre-draft hype that many of his peers like Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski, and Broderick Jones did, but he was a late riser and went from a projected late first-round or early second-round pick to going inside the top ten.
Playing in Tennessee’s spread offense, Wright has more than enough reps in pass protection to check the box. Additionally, playing in the SEC allowed him to go up against some of the best defensive players in college football. Most notably, Wright went toe-to-toe with Will Anderson and, for the most part, had his way with the future third-overall pick in the Volunteers’ thrilling victory over the Crimson Tide.
The main concern regarding Wright’s game is his ability as a run blocker. The Volunteers seldom ran pro-style run concepts and just didn’t run the ball that much in general. This area is considered a bit of a question mark as the former five-star talent moves on to the league.
However, Wright’s solid athleticism and ability to convert his size to power make him an exciting prospect and one that the Bears desperately need. For Justin Fields to take the next step in his development, the infrastructure in Chicago needs to be much stronger, and drafting Darnell Wright accomplishes that.