Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriter and Steelers insider, released his then-latest 2023 NFL mock draft on March 27. (I believe it was mock draft 893.0.)
In this particular mock, Fittipaldo had the Steelers selecting Darnell Wright, tackle, Tennessee, in the first round (17th, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft.
When I first read this, I said, “Hmmm, Wright isn’t Paris Johnson Jr. or Pete Skoronski, so why would the Steelers choose him if they were looking to draft an offensive tackle in the first round?”
Then, I read Fittipaldo’s reasoning, as he also described Wright as a prospect:
“Could Pete Skoronski, Broderick Jones and Paris Johnson Jr. finally have some company in the first round? That trio has dominated the early draft cycle, and all three might be off the board in the top half of the first round. Wright has been rising up draft boards with an impressive offseason showing. He lacked consistency with the Volunteers, but he more than held his own against the SEC’s top edge rushers, including Alabama’s Will Anderson. He played right tackle more than left tackle at Tennessee, but he did start on the left side as a junior in 2021. If he ends up at right tackle, the Steelers must decide if Chuks Okorafor can flip to the left side or keep Moore there. Either way, Wright has the potential to be better than anyone on the roster now.”
I was intrigued.
An offensive tackle who not only played in the SEC but went to war and held his own against Will Anderson, one of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft? I liked it. Plus, Wright is obviously versatile, since he played on both the left and right side in college.
Then, I decided to check out the various big board rankings just to get a general idea of the consensus opinion on Wright from the so-called experts.
The first one on the Google list was Pro Football Focus (PFF), which had Wright ranked 70th (on the third page and everything). They didn’t even bother to describe Wright in any kind of way.
Second on the Google list was www.pff.com (wait, is this the same PFF?) which had Wright ranked 20th and mentioned that he was a four-year starter at Tennessee and talked about how the light finally flipped on for him last year.
Tankathon had Wright ranked 22nd.
ESPN Daniel Jeremiah released his big board on March 9th and had Wright ranked 17th—the highest on any of the boards I researched. Below is Jeremiah’s description of Wright:
“Wright is a massive right tackle prospect. He lacks ideal foot quickness in pass protection, but does a nice job of staying square and staying patient. Defenders get into his chest, but he’s able to absorb and stop their charge because he has so much mass and power. He is late with his punch, but once he latches on, the play is over. He more than held his own against Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. In the run game, he leans on his opponent and creates movement despite playing too high. He has success at the second level when he can stay on one track. He struggles to redirect in space, though. Overall, Wright isn’t a special athlete, but his blend of size and power gives him a chance to be a stable starting right tackle at the next level.”
Damn, give me more!
I then clicked on Walter Football’s famed draft site and discovered that its latest big board—published on March 29th—had Wright ranked 64th.
Give me less?
How about give me a headache?
Most of the other draft boards had Wright ranked somewhere in the 20s.
That, alone, would make me a bit uncomfortable forming an opinion on him, but after seeing rankings of 17, 64 and 70? Yikes.
I don’t know what to make of Wright, other than I feel like I’ll be wrong no matter what I say about him.
And this is why I hesitate to say anything about a player the Steelers may or may not draft.
Chances are, someone will tell me that player is garbage. Others will say they’d be totally depressed if he were the pick. Still, others threaten nuclear meltdowns by the mere suggestion that (insert player here) should be the guy the Steelers take.
Then, there’s the dreaded, “Yo, your mock is wack, bruh” response that is like the open-mouth chewing of online words.
But I do thank Ray Fittipaldo for that mock draft because it now has put Darnell Wright on my radar. Do I want the Steelers to draft him?
Will he be a good player for them?
If so, great.
Will a fan become despondent over the selection of Darnell Wright?
If so, even better.