After an offseason of turnover at the tackle position, the Kansas City Chiefs could add a tackle in the NFL Draft next month. The team met with several offensive tackles at the NFL Combine, and Darnell Wright was among them.
Pass protection against elite competition
Measuring 6’5” and 333 lbs. at the combine, Wright has the size and power that a prototypical right tackle in the NFL needs. With size, elite quickness out of his stance and tremendous core strength, he dominated elite pass rushers.
Smooth feet for Wright in pass pro vs Anderson here. I like where he keeps his hands and he does a nice job to use leverage and anchoring to slow down the rush. The feet are smooth out of his stance. Maybe like to see the hips more square, but overall a good pro. pic.twitter.com/tcp9kPUkDS— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 18, 2023
Wright explodes from his stance, keeping his weight on his inside foot and gliding into his drive-and-catch pass set.
Projected overall top-five pick Will Anderson mixes his hands off the snap, not showing his intent. He fires his hands into Wright and attempts to bullrush him. Anderson extends, but Wright has his hands positioned correctly to land his punch on Anderson's chest. He then sits back and anchors into the ground, stopping the pass rush.
Facing speed and flexibility requires a much different set of skills than taking on power rushers. One of Wright's more intriguing matchups during 2022 was going against potential first-round draft pick BJ Ojulari from LSU.
Darnell Wright vs BJ Ojulari— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) January 6, 2023
Explosion out of the stance for Wright, and he almost oversets. He redirects down hard and mirrors Ojulari the rest of the rep. Battle of speed and bend vs strength and power. Great recovery and finish from Wright. pic.twitter.com/X7OC2kPtah
Ojulari looks to bend the arc, so Wright explodes out of his stance quickly and beats him to the bend point — where Ojulari would start to work a move to the outside.
Ojulari sees this and quickly goes to his secondary move, a redirect to penetrate the B-gap. Against other tackles who are less fleet of foot, this is usually where Ojulari can win if the outside is taken away (based on his superior athletic ability).
This does not work against Wright, who sees the edge rusher twitch his shoulders to the inside and work into the B-gap. Wright sets flat back down to the inside and cuts off Ojulari, getting his hands on him to prevent any penetration.
This is a rare movement ability for someone at more than 330 lbs. It shows Wright’s tremendous potential to be a high-level pass protector at the next level.
Run game domination
Wright will be a natural in any running attack, displaying technique and power in college.
This is so good from Wright (RT). Doubles the 3tech with the RG, then comes off on the perfect angle to the LB. The TE hugs it tight off the double team. Fun to see the Chiefs popularize this play across the sport. pic.twitter.com/KlPGpq98ku— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) March 1, 2023
Tennesee runs a similar style of “power pitch” that we have seen the Chiefs run around the red zone.
On the play side of power, Wright is responsible for blocking his inside gap, where a 3-technique is lined up. Working a deuce block with the right guard (a play-side double-team between the guard and tackle on gap run plays like power and counter), he knocks the 3-technique over to his guard.
Wright then maintains posture and climbs vertically but still keeps his eyes in his gap. The middle linebacker flows to stop the play, but Wright makes contact under control, sealing him, and it is an easy touchdown for Tennessee.
Wright also found ways to excel in blocking zone — an essential staple in almost every offense in the NFL.
Good work in space by Wright on the outside zone. Get's to the DB under control, locks him up, and finishes the block with a pancake. pic.twitter.com/lY0cJ6qvLu— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 18, 2023
Wright is responsible for his outside gap on the play side of the zone. With no player lined up directly on him, he has to patiently work out of his stance and allow the defensive back to work his way closer to the line of scrimmage.
When he is in range, Wright attacks and flattens him. Wright does not want to come out of his stance too fast. A defensive back will always have an advantage in space over an offensive lineman. His timing here was the key, almost bringing the smaller player to him before connecting on the block.
Competitive edge from advanced hands
Wright’s mean streak showed up all over his film. In a star-studded matchup against another potential first-round pick Bryan Bresee, Wright found a way to make sure he would be remembered.
Darnell Wright vs Bryan Bresee turned into a battle.— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) March 23, 2023
1. Bresee shifts gaps, and Wright catches him in a down block.
2. Clear trash talk, Bresee a small shove toward the end.
3. Bresee stands up Wright in the hole creating a stalemate.
4. Wright stabs and snatches Bresee. pic.twitter.com/hl6xEjtgXs
Their matchup resembled a “fist fight in a phone booth” all game. On the final snap, Wright quickly jumps out and strikes Bresee. Shocked, Bresee stumbles out of his stance, allowing Wright to “snatch” his jersey and put him on the ground.
This kind of nasty play made Wright notorious in Tennessee — but from a technical standpoint, it displays how advanced he is as a hand fighter.
Darnell Wright (RT) helps his guard by giving a hand vs the 2tech. The edge rusher waits for this and comes on a delay. Wright knocks away the long arm, engages the block, and creates a pile. QB has time to get the ball off. Savy work by Wright, his hand usage is top-notch. pic.twitter.com/BDvvrEDpHz— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) February 18, 2023
Wright uses one hand to help the guard against an interior pass rusher and patiently waits for the edge. Going for a long arm, the edge looks to land his hand in Wright's chest, but the hand is knocked away, leaving the edge off balance.
Wright takes advantage of the loss of balance and drives the edge rusher into the interior rusher creating a pile. Not many tackles in college have this level of hand-fighting ability, and it separates Wright.
The bottom line
While it was reported the Chiefs met with Wright, there was some speculation based on a social media post as to what Wright was doing in Kansas City on Tuesday.
Tennessee RT Darnell Wright is in KC. Team visit with the Chiefs? pic.twitter.com/e4EncLesrB— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 27, 2023
While no official visit has been confirmed, Wright did meet with the team in Indianapolis at the combine, and his skill set is in line with what Andy Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck have looked for in tackles.
He fits not only the physical requirements the team will be looking for but also the premium that Heck puts on the ability to hand fight.
With the explosion out of his stance, smooth feet in pass protection, strength to maul in the run game and advanced hands, Wright has a chance to go early in the first round.
The only question will be if the teams drafting early will not hold him in the same regard as the elite left tackles in this year's draft class.
Since most elite teams have multiple talented edge rushers (especially the AFC West, in particular), there will be a premium on a player like Wright, who can fill out a tackle spot for a team.
He is a player the Chiefs would be lucky to have fall to pick 31 — or somewhere in the trade-up range.