During Thursday’s first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Poles found a lineman who fits that mold perfectly. The Bears selected Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright with the 10th overall pick in the draft after trading back one spot with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wright is a 6-foot-5, 333-pound lineman who could come in and start right away at right tackle. The Bears had a gaping hole at the right tackle position, where they needed a premium lineman to help protect quarterback Justin Fields. Wright was an All-SEC right tackle in 2022 for the Vols.
“I knew as far as my talent and what I can do, I knew I could go this high [in the draft], but it just took the right team to see that, the right coaches who know what I can be,” Wright said. “I haven’t reached the surface of what I can be.”
With 33 3/4-inch long arms, Wright has the length to succeed at the tackle position. With a 29-inch vertical jump and a 5.01-second 40-yard dash – at 333 pounds – he has the athleticism, too.
“You see on tape, I’m big and I’m strong, but I don’t think people realize – once they really get to see some more of me, they’ll see how athletic I am and I can play both sides as needed,” Wright said.
He played primarily right tackle in college. He began his college career as a right tackle, moved to left tackle in 2021, then moved back to right tackle and started 13 games last season. In all, he started 42 games over four seasons for Tennessee.
Wright didn’t allow a sack in 2022 and he performed well against Alabama’s Will Anderson when the Vols upset the Crimson Tide.
“I mentioned the tone setting, the nasty mentality you look for, that set him apart,” Poles said. “The anchor was a big one, it’s critical, the combination of size and athleticism.”
In taking Wright at No. 10 overall, the Bears passed on local product Peter Skoronski, the Northwestern lineman from Maine South, and Georgia tackle Broderick Jones, who might’ve been the top left tackle in the draft. Skoronski might wind up being a guard more than a tackle, and the Bears had a bigger need at tackle than guard.
They also passed on controversial Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. In swapping picks with the Eagles, the Bears picked up a 2024 fourth-round draft pick. The Eagles moved up one spot and took Carter, who is highly talented on the field, but who has faced questions off the field following his involvement in a fatal car crash in January.
There was some thought that Carter could fit exactly what the Bears were trying to build on defense, but Poles appeared to have other ideas. He, instead, picked up a future draft pick and found more protection for Fields, who was sacked a league-leading 55 times last season.
Wright, who watched the draft with friends and family in Knoxville, Tennessee, said over a Zoom call with members of the media that he met with Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan on April 8 for a private workout. Poles was also present for that workout.
They worked Wright hard. Poles said they gave Wright plays to learn, then they exhausted him out on the field before asking him to remember the plays from earlier. They tested both his endurance and his mental abilities.
“He showed the ability to adapt and learn really really fast,” Poles said.
They didn’t scare Wright away, either. Wright sounded pumped to work with Morgan, who he knows will hold him accountable.
“He’s going to be hard, but I’ve never shied away from hard,” Wright said.