Hub Arkush: Ryan Poles stays true to draft board, fills major need with OT Darnell Wright

Tennessee offensive lineman should start at right tackle

Tennessee offensive lineman Darnell Wright plays during the Senior Bowl, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Mobile, Ala.

The three main takeaways from Thursday’s first round has to start with the trades, which were over the top. When you consider predraft trades, nine of the top 14 picks in the 2023 draft swapped hands.

Next up, apparently running backs are still worth a lot more than we thought with Texas’ Bijan Robinson going to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. Then, after trading down, the Detroit Lions snagged Alabama’s Jamyr Gibbs at No. 12 – even after they gave starter money to David Montgomery in free agency.

Third, and most importantly to Bears fans, general manager Ryan Poles did trade down from No. 9 as many expected but only one spot in a swap with the Philadelphia Eagles that brought back a fourth-round pick in 2024. The Bears then went with offensive line, as many expected, but did it with Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright, who almost no one had going as high as the 10th pick.

Don’t despair Bears fans, Wright is a very interesting pick at 10th and there are more than a handful of things to like about him.

For starters, I, for one, was going nuts the last few weeks with so many folks talking about the Bears needing and drafting a left tackle when it seemed to make very little sense.

Poles found Braxton Jones in the fifth round last year and he started every game as a rookie at left tackle while getting better almost every week. At 6-7, 310 pounds, Jones is ideal for the left side and could have the Bears set there for a long time.

In much the same vein, while he played on both the right and left side in college, Wright was primarily a right tackle. And, at 6-5, 333 pounds, he is perfectly put together to stay there. The Bears could now be set at tackle on both sides for many years to come.

Here’s what I love about Wright on the right side.

He has outstanding mass and power, and with his elite strength, once he gets his hands on whomever he is blocking, the play is over for them. He is young (still just 21 years old), and while he will still need growth as a pass protector, he already has outstanding run-blocking skills and plays with a never-say-quit mentality with his best football still in front of him.

While Wright does need coaching and work, several scouts told me he has the size, athletic ability and tools to be a special lineman at the next level if he puts in the work.

There is an interesting note to consider about the Bears trading down from ninth to 10th. There was extensive talk leading up to the draft as it appeared more and more likely that Jalen Carter would still be available at No. 9 regarding whether or not the Bears would take him.

Defensive line is clearly the Bears’ greatest need and the Bears had to know the Eagles were going to take Carter when they made the deal.

Apparently, Poles made up his mind that he wasn’t taking a chance on Carter. Knowing Poles’ history and how he feels about the offensive line, he clearly stayed true to his draft board and took what he thought was perhaps a blue-chip player in Wright or at worst a potential solid starter, at the offensive line spot he actually did need the most.

The Bears will almost certainly draft a center and another guard on Day 3 with all the extra picks they have, but by committing to Jones, Wright and free agent offensive guard Nate Davis, they have already significantly deepened – and hopefully improved – their offensive line.

What comes next should be obvious and may also be promising based on what was happening late Thursday night in the first round. The wide receiver run started in earnest at pick 20, sooner than most expected but with four of the next five picks being wideouts and leaving Bears’ needs on the board. A number of top cornerbacks are still on the board, and other than the top three, a number of the top edge rushers and defensive tackles were still available.

The Bears will have to be patient Friday waiting to get to pick 53, but there will he highly-rated defensive linemen available at all four positions. They could even consider trading up to get the special edge rusher they desperately need.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush was the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and