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To get to know Detroit Lions fourth-round pick Gabe Wright, a defensive tackle from Auburn, I sent five questions to Walt Austin from College and Magnolia, SB Nation's Tigers blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Wright:
1. Unsurprisingly, Wright has drawn a lot of comparisons to former Auburn and Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Are Fairley and Wright at all similar on and off the field?
On the field, I would say they are very similar in some respects. Both are immensely talented, but don't have a whole lot to show for it in the stats columns (aside from Fairley's monster 2010 season at Auburn). Wright is quick, and when he's on his game, he is a disruptive force in the middle of the line. Getting him to give it his all every play has been the biggest knock on him.
I will say that I think they are opposites in terms of on-field temperament and awareness. Fairley was flagged for unnecessary roughness/unsportsmanlike behavior a number of times while at Auburn. Wright went out of his way to avoid it. On the sack that ended the 2013 Ole Miss game, Wright sacked Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace with a two-fisted chest punch/shove. He broke straight through the line, planted both hands on Wallace's chest and gave him one of the hardest shoves I've seen. (3:58 mark)
He later said he did that because he was afraid of getting called for targeting or roughing the passer. For another example of that, see his block on No. 99 during the 2013 "Kick Six." Go to the 4:55 mark and watch No. 99 in the bottom right get destroyed by Wright.
Off the field, I don't think they are very similar. I never once heard any issues with Wright in terms of attitude or discipline. He was disciplined enough that he completely transformed his body prior to the start of the 2014 football season by dropping a lot of weight.
2. It's been suggested that Wright's draft stock fell quite a bit over the course of his senior season. Was there a noticeable step backward in your eyes?
I don't think there was a noticeable step backwards at all. I think his stock fell because the defensive line as a whole fell. Auburn had zero pass rush in 2014, and teams were able to double-team Wright on obvious passing downs or otherwise neutralize him because no one was scared of our defensive ends. I think Wright played on the same level he did for most of his Auburn career. If there was a step back it was probably more because folks expected him to build upon his 2013 success.
3. Is Wright better defending the run or rushing the passer?
I really don't know if he's particularly better at either one to be honest. His sack totals would lean towards saying he's a better run stopper, but Auburn hasn't had the greatest run defense the past few years. If I had to choose one way or another I'd say pass rusher. He may not get a lot of sacks, but he's disruptive enough that he can cause the quarterback to move out of the pocket. Auburn had a number of plays last season where the middle of the line chased the QB out, but the line couldn't convert it into a sack.
4. The Lions are expecting Wright to be a Day 1 contributor for 25-30 snaps a game. Do you think he will be ready to see regular playing time at the NFL level as a rookie?
I think he can contribute immediately if he really steps up his effort to his full potential. If he gives his all on every play, he can be something special.
5. What one play from Wright's career at Auburn best exemplifies his abilities as a defensive tackle?
I have to go back to that sack against Ole Miss. The offensive lineman didn't effectively engage him in time, there was a tiny hole and if you give him an opening he's going to burst through it. Then he decided to go for the safe play rather than the big highlight hit. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and he's very disruptive when he's on his game. I actually think the Lions will be much happier with him in the long run than they were with Fairley.