KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tennessee VFL Darnell Wright became the highest drafted Southeastern Conference offensive lineman of the 2023 NFL Draft as the right tackle was selected by the Chicago Bears with the No. 10 overall pick in the first round on Thursday night.
Wright, a 2022 first-team All-SEC selection, held a draft party in Knoxville and celebrated with his family and friends. It was the culmination of a dominant two-year stretch for the Huntington, West Virginia, native in the Volunteers’ explosive offense.
In 2022, he started all 13 games at right tackle for the nation’s No. 1 offense without allowing a sack in 895 snaps played. He was one of only 14 FBS offensive linemen with more than 850 snaps logged and no sacks allowed with an efficiency of 99.0 or better according to Pro Football Focus.
“You see on tape, I’m big and strong,” Wright said late Thursday night in a Chicago media availability. “I don’t think people will realize once they really get to see 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 want to earn the respect of those guys first, but I can probably play anywhere on the line. My athleticism will speak for itself. I just want to get better and better at my technique.”
Wright is the 14th top-10 draft pick in Tennessee history and the first since defensive back Eric Berry in 2010. He is the highest drafted Vol offensive lineman since Charles McRae and Antone Davis went Nos. 7 and 8, respectively in 1991. Wright was the second-highest drafted offensive lineman of the entire 2023 draft.
Wright’s selection lifted the Vols’ all-time first-round pick total to 47, which is top 10 nationally.
He reunites with offensive teammate Velus Jones Jr., who was chosen in the third round by the Bears last year. Wright is the 20th Vol drafted all-time by Chicago.
Several Tennessee players are expected to come off the board early in round two of the NFL Draft, which gets underway at 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN2, ABC and NFL Network. The explosive offensive trio of quarterback Hendon Hooker and wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman are among the top 10 best available prospects by several draft experts.