Our 2023 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft is underway and members/commenters of the Pride of Detroit community will be making selections for every pick in the first two rounds. I have the privilege to represent the Detroit Lions and will be making both picks No. 6 (where I selected Devon Witherspoon) and 18 for them.
So far, we have seen 17 picks come off the board and you can follow along with all of them in our 2023 POD community mock draft tracker. And that brings us to the Lions at pick No. 18 overall.
As we laid out in our latest poll, the Lions could go a few different ways with the pick, and the top options we asked readers to vote on included:
Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee
Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Brian Branch, DB, Alabama
As is tradition, I made my selection before the vote—so as not to be influenced by the poll results—and as it turns out, just like at pick No. 6, I am not siding with the popular vote. About a third of the 3000+ votes cast went toward Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, but I ended up selecting the player to receive the second most votes...
Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee
Both my selections in the community mock draft have been with the Lions' future in mind. Each time, I selected a player who I believed was the best overall prospect, even if he played at a position of slightly lesser need in 2023.
The Lions' offensive line is the strength of their team—featuring three Pro Bowlers and an above-average left tackle—and they enter the season with hopes the group can be even stronger than last season. Detroit lost interim starter Evan Brown in free agency, but incumbent starter Halapoulivaati Vaitai is presumed to be healthy, and the (re-)signing former starter Graham Glasgow in free agency has boosted the competition level at right guard.
While the unit looks in good shape for 2023, every interior offensive lineman—save Frank Ragnow—on the current roster is on an expiring contract. Starting left guard Jonah Jackson will be a priority re-sign target in the offseason, but with a Pro Bowl to his name, he may carry a significant price tag. Meaning, the Lions are facing potential holes at both left and right guard in 2024.
Beyond 2024, the Lions' next starting offensive lineman to see his contract ready to expire is Taylor Decker. Arguably the most underrated player on the line, the Lions will have a difficult decision with Decker because not only will he command a suitable contract, but entering the 2025 offseason, the left tackle will also be 32 years old.
General manager Brad Holmes prioritizes developing succession plans and it’s clear they’ll need to not only have a long-term replacement ready at right (and maybe left) guard in 2024, but also another potential to make at offensive tackle in 2025. If the Lions want to keep their offensive line at its current level of dominance, they need to address the trenches in this draft, and potentially early in the process.
Enter Darnell Wright.
A four-year starter at Tennessee, Wright has started games at right tackle, left tackle, and right guard—42 total starts in all. While the majority of his dominance has been on the right side, his positional flexibility will make him very appealing to a Lions team that will be on the lookout for a starting-level talent who can play both inside and out.
At 6-foot-5, 333 pounds, Wright’s game is dripping in power. In the running game, there may not have been a better offensive tackle in college football last season, as he not only looks to engulf his opponent, but he finishes every play with authority. He is a more fluid mover than he gets credit for, and his ability to pull, locate, and engage is ideally suited for a gap-power scheme, exactly like the Lions operate.
As a pass setter, Wright can get on his toes when trying to reach a block, but he has the hip fluidity to get set early, the power to anchor, and improving hand technique skills to engage and hold the edge, even against the best pass rushers in this class—clamping down potential top pick Alabama’s Will Anderson, projected top 50 pick, LSU’a B.J. Ojulari, and first rounder Clemson’s Brian Bresee this past season.
Tennessee RT Darnell Wright became one of my favorite prospects in the draft after watching Senior Bowl and film from the season. He’s been at his best vs. the best. Will Anderson, B.J. Ojulari, UGA, Clemson, Senior Bowl.— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 6, 2023
Here are some reps vs. Anderson. Stud. pic.twitter.com/OgZtvV9Byt
Here’s some excerpts from draft analysts profiles on Wright:
The Atheltic’s Dane Brugler ($):
“Overall, Wright will get himself into trouble when he sacrifices technique for his nasty demeanor, but he naturally defaults to his raw power and body control to consistently win in both the run and passing game. He is a plug-and-play right tackle, and some teams have him on their draft board as a starting guard.”
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah (who lists Wright at the No. 15 prospect and No. 1 OT on his board):
“Tennessee OT Darnell Wright keeps acing every test. Excellent fall season vs elite comp(petition). Strong all star game week. Impressive Combine workout. I think he belongs in the discussion as the top OT in this class.”
“While he was often a positional blocker at Tennessee, he’s a very talented drive blocker when allowed to fire out. There will be inconsistent outings, but Wright should develop into a decent starting tackle with the potential to kick inside if necessary.”
“Wright is a four-year starter who finally saw the proverbial light flip on this past fall. His tape against Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. was outstanding, as he allowed only one pressure in that game and eight for the season.”
The Draft Network’s Joe Marino:
“Wright has the makeup of a quality NFL starter in a run scheme that is willing to accept his modest range. His experience against top competition, power, and mass give him the chance to be a starter early in his career.”
NFL Coach via The Athletic’a Bruce Feldman:
“He’s always been this massive dude, but he was a much different player (in 2022) and one of the most improved guys in the league. He’s not a great athlete, but he cleaned up his footwork, had better body control and was more patient. Watch him on film against Anderson this year. He did about as well as anyone did on him.”
The consistent overall scheme with the profiles on Wright is that he is at his best when playing top competition, has dominating power, turned a corner last season, is improving his technique, and is a limited athlete. And when you watch his game film, most of those assertions hold true, though I would push back on his athleticism. I believe a push inside to guard and a different offensive scheme (like the Lions) can unlock the raw athleticism that was not a feature at Tennessee—of note: Wright’s RAS is 9.67 as a OT and 9.98 as a OG.
If the Lions were to draft Wright, he would immediately be in competition to start at right guard and would be the presumed starting right guard in 2024. His positional range to play right tackle would give the Lions insurance against injury to either Decker or Penei Sewell, as well as an in-house insurance in 2025 when a decision will need to be made with Decker’s contract. Additionally, Wright’s ability to contribute as a sixth offensive lineman—either at the right tackle spot or in tight end role—would open up another dimension to the Lions rushing attack.
Alright time to vote. What grade do you give the Lions for drafting Darnell Wright?
What grade do you give the Lions for drafting Darnell Wright?
This poll is closed