NFL Draft: Bears select Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Darnell Wright helped Tennessee re-emerge as a national power. And the Chicago Bears hope the feisty blocker can do something similar for them.
Chicago selected the Tennessee offensive tackle with the No. 10 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, giving quarterback Justin Fields more protection after trading back one spot with Philadelphia.
"That’s what I’m here for is for anything he needs," Wright said. "That’s my job to keep him clean. Amazing. Amazing quarterback and the things he does, we’re going to have a great team."
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He said he was "in shock" and that his mind was "racing 1,000 miles per hour." But he also expressed confidence.
"I’m big and I’m strong," Wright said. "But I don’t think people will realize once they really get to see some more of me, they’ll see how athletic I am and that I can play both sides as needed. I know I’m coming into a room. I just wanna earn the respect of those guys first. But I can play probably anywhere on the line. My athleticism will speak for itself."
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 05: Darnell Wright of Tennessee participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 05, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
The Bears clearly had no intention of drafting Jalen Carter and allowed the Eagles to switch spots so they could take Georgia’s star defensive tackle. Chicago also got a fourth-round pick in 2024.
The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Wright played a big role in Tennessee going 11-2 and finishing sixth in the final AP poll. He delivered a memorable performance in containing Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. in a 52-49 win over the Crimson Tide, and was first-team, All-SEC as a right tackle last season. He played left tackle in 2021.
"You get a small bit of who I am in that game," Wright said. "A lot of my games, you can go and see what I’m about. But I appreciate that game. I like to play against the best players.""
The Bears finished with the worst record in the league and set a franchise mark for losses while going 3-14 in their first season under general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus. But their frustrated fans are feeling at least a little more optimistic after some big offseason moves.
The Bears hired Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren as their new president and closed on a 326-acre tract of land in suburban Arlington Heights where they hope to build an enclosed stadium.
Poles pulled off a blockbuster trade for a play-making receiver in March when he acquired DJ Moore from the quarterback-needing Carolina Panthers. The Bears moved down eight spots and also got a haul of selections in return; Carolina took Alabama’s Bryce Young at No. 1.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Bryce Young of Alabama poses for a portrait during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images)
Wright is the first offensive lineman drafted by Chicago in the first round since Kyle Long in 2013. He is also Poles’ first opening-round pick. The Bears did not have one in 2022, after former GM Ryan Pace dealt it to the New York Giants the previous year to move up for quarterback Justin Fields.
Wright watched the draft at a hotel in Knoxville with family and friends. He worked out for Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan at Tennessee on April 8, and also visited Halas Hall.
"It’s rare that you get to go somewhere where you really get to get coached by someone you really like and you feel like can take your game to the next level," he said. "That’s what I feel like C-Mo can do for me. He already told me it’s gonna be hard, but I’ve never shied away from hard."
Chicago’s two most prominent additions in free agency were at linebacker, where they signed Buffalo two-time Pro Bowler Tremaine Edmunds (four years, $72 million, $50 million guaranteed) and former Eagle T.J. Edwards (three years, $19.5 million, $12 million guaranteed).
But they still had plenty of issues to address in the draft, including an edge rusher to boost a pass rush that finished with a league-low 20 sacks as well as a disruptor on the interior of the defensive line. They also needed to beef up the blocking to protect Fields, after he was sacked 55 times and tied Denver’s Russell Wilson for most in the NFL.
The Bears came into the draft with 10 picks, including two second-rounders at 53 and 61 and the first pick of the third at No. 64. They also had two picks each in the fourth (103, 133), fifth (136, 148) and seventh (218, 258) rounds.
With the 5th pick in the draft, the Seattle Seahawks chose cornerback Devon Witherspoon of the Fighting Illini.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Devon Witherspoon of Illinois poses for a portrait during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images)
With the 11th pick in the draft, the Tennessee Titans chose offensive tackle Peter Skoronski of the Northwestern Wildcats.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Peter Skoronski of Northwestern poses for a portrait during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images)
With the 13th pick in the draft, the Green Bay Packers chose Iowa Hawkeyes defensive end and Barrington-native Lukas Van Ness.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Lukas Van Ness of Iowa poses for a portrait during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images)
According to most oddmakers and most mock drafts, QB Bryce Young was the overwhelming favorite to go first.
The draft began at 8 p.m. EST at Kansas City’s Union Station, where the league has built its largest stage complex for its second-biggest event behind the Super Bowl.