Shortly after the Bears traded down from the 9th pick in the draft, where Jalen Carter was still available, Ryan Poles and his team decided to select Darnell Wright, a right tackle out of Tennessee. A pick that in March and even most of April would have surprised many, but one that made sense all along. The best natural pass blocker in the entire 2023 draft class was the perfect fit for a Bears team that needed that pass blocking help so much.
In this article, I’ll dive into his testing scores, data and metrics, and film to find out how good he really is and what the Bears and their fans should expect out of him.
Darnell Wright did every test at the combine outside of the bench press and 3-cone. In the drills he completed he scored a 9.67 Relative Athletic Score (RAS) out of 10. RAS is a metric created by Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) to try and put an overall athletic score to a prospect’s testing relative to other players in their position. Wright’s 9.67 RAS was the 43rd BEST out of 1293 tackles to have entered the league and taken part in the combine since 1987.
Something I wanted to touch on was arm length and with Wright’s arm length being 33.75 inches they are on the shorter side. I did a little research into a tackle’s arm length and its correlation or relationship with career pressure rate. In this I found there to be absolutely no correlation between arm length of a tackle and their pressure rate. While selection bias does exist in tackles with arm lengths 33 inches or lower because many become guards, that does not hold relevant to Wright who is part of a very large sample. So his 33.75 inch arms are of absolutely no concern because as you will see later in the film section, he is very strong in both his anchor as well as his arms and hands.
Last thing about athletic testing is this tweet I made during the combine showing PFF’s top 10 graded offensive tackles in pass pro last season and their RAS. Although I have not *yet* conducted a full observational study, this trend amongst the best seems to be clear.
Stats and Metrics
In 2022, according to PFF, Darnell Wright allowed 0(!) sacks and that was with Hendon Hooker having a 29% pressure to sack rate. On all pass sets, Wright allowed an absurd 0.9% pressure rate and ended the season with an 80.2 pass block grade per PFF. In true pass sets, which is described as “excludes plays with less than 4 rushers, play action, screens, short dropbacks and time-to-throws under 2 seconds” by PFF, Wright surrendered once again 0 sacks and a pressure rate of 1.9%. His PFF grade on true pass sets was 79.7.
His run blocking graded out worse than his pass blocking as he graded at a 65.0. Luckily for Wright and the Bears he will join a team where run blocking is relatively much easier given the fact that Justin Fields is at minimum a +1 in the run game. On the other hand, Wright being a great pass blocker helps Fields too as passing the ball is where his struggles come from.
Here’s a comparison of the first round tackles taken in the draft. Yes, I have come to the conclusion that Skoronski likely plays his best football at guard so he’s been omitted.
Darnell Wright’s film is very impressive. It’s even more impressive considering he’s an SEC tackle and faced players of the likes of Will Anderson, Jalen Carter, Bryan Creese, BJ Ojulari and was very successful against all of them. The biggest thing you see on film is his immense anchor and grip strength not letting players through him at all. He is a different kind of strong as a pass blocker which is the exact player the Bears need. He moves well laterally and has a very efficient kick out to help him get out against speed. Just an overall very smart player too who plays with toughness. Protects his QB at all costs.
His mobility in the run game is still there and while he would likely succeed more gap scheme than zone scheme, he will be more than fine. The tweet I am adding under this has a minute worth of pass pro and run blocking so you can see for yourself what I am talking about.
The Bears needed Darnell Wright as much as he needed them, if not more. Justin Fields will be super thankful that the Bears added a tough ass tackle in front of him who will protect him. Ever since I really watched Wright in march I knew he was the best tackle in the class and I have tweets to support that.
Hopefully he transitions well and the Bears can continue his development into the next stage of his football career because there is an insane amount of talent there. Should be a very fun player to continue to watch for the next couple of years.