Patriots 2023 NFL Draft: Rising offensive tackle Darnell Wright fits the bill

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Offensive lineman Darnell Wright of Tennessee speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Offensive lineman Darnell Wright of Tennessee speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots 2023 NFL Draft starts in less than two weeks and the excitement is building around Patriots Nation.  Mock drafts are flowing and by next week draft mania will be at a fever pitch.

The 2023 draft is especially critical to the upcoming fortunes of the Patriots. Crush it and you’re a playoff team. Don’t, and you’ll be a bottom-dweller in the AFC East.

The Pats didn’t do enough in free agency. What they did was hot and cold. The skill positions they upgraded, the offensive line, not so much.

One thing is certain, positionally, the Patriots can draft almost anywhere at the top of the draft and not be making a mistake. They need help everywhere.

There’s a lot of work to be done and the O-line is still a key area of focus though exactly how they proceed to fill the need at tackle could come in several iterations, all of which might work.

One of these would involve a rising offensive tackle who’d fit in very nicely, indeed.

New England Patriots can draft a great tackle from Tennessee

A name shooting up the draft boards who would likely be available to the Patriots at their own pick, No. 14 later this month, is Tennessee road-grader, Darnell Wright.

Wright is a 6’5″ tall, 333-pound mauler who played right tackle this past season but has played left in the past. There’s that versatility aspect that is so dear to the New England Patriots.

Sometimes in sports, versatility just means that you’re not good enough at any one position to stay there. Other times, it’s just a super-asset for a player who can excel at two or more positions. Wright fits into the latter category.

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Chris Simms of NFL on NBC has Wright as his top offensive tackle in the entire draft. That’s high praise coming from Simms, especially in light of the competition such as Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., and Broderick Jones.

Here’s what has to say about this Tennessee product,

"Darnell Wright has the potential to be a prolific starter at Right Tackle in the NFL. His combination of size, power and significant experience means that teams will have little hesitation in throwing him into the firing line early. His ability in specific run schemes will be a tantalizing prospect for offensive co-ordinaries who will tailor their approach to his skill set."

New England Patriots could have an immediate starter at right tackle

Wright, who didn’t allow a single sack in 2022, could be an immediate plug-and-play starter on the right side for the New England Patriots or could start out as the team’s top reserve tackle behind newly signed Riley Reiff, a stopgap solution. Should Wright play as expected, he could supplant him immediately. has Wright as a top-30 pick. He could go much higher. Getting the talented big guy at 30 after a couple of trades down by the New England Patriots would land this draft an A grade on its own, but that kind of good fortune isn’t likely.

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Realistically, he won’t be available long enough for more than possibly one trade-down of maybe up to five picks. But that’s risky business. and the team could miss out.

Depending on how the draft flows, should there be a couple of the top five tackles available at pick No. 14, the Patriots might take a chance, trade down for more picks and still get Wright.

It’s a plausible strategy to maximize the unusually high draft position that the team’s 2022 record provided it. It’s the team’s highest pick since Jerod Mayo in 2008.

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So there’s a bit of a sleeper pick (if any first-round talent can be considered a “sleeper”) for the New England Patriots to consider. Would you draft Darnell Wright and if so at what position in the draft? We’d like to hear your view on this.