DT Gabe Wright (Auburn) - Round 4, Pick No. 113
The Detroit Lions went into the draft without a fourth-round pick, but that changed on the final day of the event. The Lions traded away a future third-round pick to move into the fourth round, which allowed them to finally address the defensive tackle position by selecting Auburn's Gabe Wright.
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 300 pounds
2011: 12 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 FF
2012: 19 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 2 PD
2013: 31 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks
2014: 24 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.0 sack
Wright attended the same school (Auburn) and played the same position (defensive tackle) as former Lion Nick Fairley, and the two players are familiar with each other.
Gabe Wright said Nick Fairley was a tutor of sorts for him. Said Fairley told him comparisons would be natural, but to be his own man.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) May 2, 2015
What the experts are saying
Wright is raw, but he fits the profile of what the Lions are looking for in a DT. He's lengthy (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) and explosive off the snap, but his biggest weakness is maintaining leverage. He tends to get too upright in his stance and exposes his chest, which explains the lack of production at Auburn. If defensive line coach Kris Kocurek can work on his technique, I think Wright can be a solid rotational DT behind Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker.
Wright is quick and tough. He has great speed off the line, allowing him to quickly get into the backfield and to the opposing quarterback. He hasn't been prone to injuries and played in every game during his career. Wright is versatile and can play as an end or tackle.
Like Nick Fairley before him, there is some question as to whether or not Wright gives the same level of effort with each play. He's not as effective on run plays as he could be, and his drop in productivity last season could be cause for concern.
Teams have an issue with his lack of production in 2014, but his initial burst off the snap can't be dismissed. Wright has been in a defensive-line rotation at Auburn over the last two seasons, but has never really shown an ability to be a run-stuffer. Wright is a fit in a penetrating scheme, but he must continue to improve as a pass rusher.
Wright may not be a dynamic enough talent to star on his own accord at the next level. Used in a rotation, however, he could emerge as a key contributor to a pass rush. It isn't out of the question that from a statistical standpoint Wright could prove to be an even better player at the next level than he was at Auburn, especially given the frequency of passing in today's NFL.
What he brings: Wright isn't a massive space-eater, but his heavy hands and powerful punch make it tough to block him one-on-one. The 2014 team captain also has the motor and enough range to make plays outside the tackle box. While he's not a powerful bull rusher and he has average closing speed, he has the agility, hands and enough quickness to develop into a disruptive interior pass-rusher who moves quarterbacks off their spots.
Wright showed some explosiveness last season, but the regular production just did not match. He had just 17 pressures on 245 pass rush snaps for a 5.4 Pass Rushing Productivity, that ranked 32nd out of 92 draft eligible DTs. He was even less productive in run defense, with an 81st ranked 3.4 Run Stop Percentage. Wright was a reach in the fourth round with players like Grady Jarrett still on the board.
(via Draft Breakdown)
Outlook for 2015
Based on what defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has said, we should expect to see Wright play 25-30 snaps a game in a rotational role behind Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker. The hope would be that Wright develops into a starter as time goes by, but at least for his rookie season, he should be a top backup and an important member of the rotation at defensive tackle.