For the Las Vegas Raiders, there is plenty of room for improvement along the offensive line. Sans Kolton Miller and Dylan Parham, the rest of the starters for next season, are anyone’s guess. For the right tackle position, Jermaine Eluemunor played well. However, the 28-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent next month. The Silver and Black have the means of finding a quality starter in the 2023 NFL Draft. Tennessee’s Darnell Wright makes an intriguing case for a position that has been in flux since Donald Penn’s departure in 2018.
Darnell Wright’s Background
The 6-foot-6 340-pound four-year Vols starter hails from Huntingdon, West Virginia. Coming out of Huntingdon High School, Wright was a five-star recruit and played in 2019’s All-American game. As a Volunteer, he started 42 games while playing in 47 total. He started five games as a guard and earned All-SEC freshmen honors in 2019. The following year he became the team’s starting right tackle as a sophomore and saw 569 total snaps. In his junior season, he switched to starting left tackle and played 992 snaps which were a team-high. Finally, as a senior, Wright reverted to right tackle, where he started every game, played in a team-leading 885 snaps, and allowed zero sacks. As a result, he was named to the SEC first team and was a Rotary Lombardi Award semifinalist. So, what is it that makes the SEC’s best offensive lineman unique?
What Makes Darnell Wright Special?
When you turn on the film and watch Darnell Wright play, you will see elite play strength.
Really impressive performance for #Tennessee RT Darnell Wright. Utilizes snap-trap in his pass blocking arsenal and using his pure strength to regain position and finish opponents.
Put on a clinic against #Kentucky. Got a big time matchup with #UGA this weekend. pic.twitter.com/1qG6Zrje3e
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) November 2, 2022
Wright is a brute known for punishing defenders and, more importantly, finishing his blocks off in style – whether pass or run blocking. Additionally, the Vols standout has above-average grip strength and hand placement that help him maintain leverage throughout his reps. Defenders feel his presence immediately upon contact with his initial punch.
Darnell Wright packs a powerful punch pic.twitter.com/y60uEDbT6W
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 1, 2023
All these positive attributes make him a natural pass protector. However, there are a few holes in his game.
Wright is Talented but Limited
Many of today’s best offensive tackles at the NFL level have elite athletic ability. The likes of David Bakhtiari, Trent Williams, Tristan Wirfs, and Lane Johnson come to mind, as they each have unheard-of athleticism. Unfortunately, for Darnell Wright, that was not his gift. While a serviceable athlete, only ‘serviceable’ will make him somewhat limited, specifically as a run blocker. He plays with stiffness in his lower frame due to his large size. Additionally, there is room to improve his footwork, but the tools are there for him to be more consistent. So, he may not be every team’s cup of tea, but should the Las Vegas Raiders partake in his services?
The Raiders Must Consider Darnell Wright
For multiple reasons, the Silver and Black would be wise to invest in Tennessee’s star lineman. First, he has experience in various positions along the offensive front. Secondly, he plays with excellent competitive toughness and elite play strength. Thirdly, with over 2000 college reps, he has proven not just with consistency but with durability as well. Above all, as a participant in the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl, he showed mental toughness on and off the field to do whatever it took to be successful against the opposition.
Tennessee OT Darnell Wright speaking on how he studies film, & his process of categorizing pass rushers#SeniorBowl #Cover1SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/5ggtvCVyUL
— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) February 1, 2023
For the Las Vegas Raiders, Darnell Wright checks a lot of boxes; they would be hard-pressed to find a better plug-and-play rookie starter at right tackle in the NFL Draft outside of the first round.
*Top Photo: University of Tennessee Athletic Department
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