Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) rushes the quarterback against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN on Saturday, Oct 15, 2022.
Photo by Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics.
Darnell Wright, arguably the best prospect entering the 2023 NFL Draft from the University of Tennessee, received high praise from a former opponent and rival on the first day of the NFL combine.
Select post-college players from around the nation began the combine journey on Wednesday, which will last through the weekend. Defensive linemen and linebackers will compete today, Thursday, while defensive backs will perform on Friday. Quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends will all go on Saturday while the offensive linemen and running backs wrap up the week on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
One of the players making noise at the top of the NFL Draft projections, defensive lineman Will Anderson Jr. from Alabama, had impressive words to say about facing off with Wright.
When the two talented players met on that October night in Knoxville, TN, Anderson struggled all game long going up against Tennessee’s offensive line – specifically, Darnell Wright. Anderson finished that game with just three total tackles in a performance that left a lot to be desired.
“Darnell Wright from Tennessee, my sophomore year to my junior year, he had gotten way better,” Will Anderson Jr said from the NFL Combine on Wednesday. “Very athletic, can bend, can re-trace with his steps. If he gets off balance, can sit down on powers, so it was really exciting going against him this year. He was really great.”
Remarkable rep here from Tennessee RT Darnell Wright. Great feet to mirror Alabama EDGE Will Anderson. Good patience to not fire hands initially, staying square to Anderson with footwork before punching late to win rep.
You don’t see many OTs doing that to Anderson. pic.twitter.com/Z4iSS2IKbm
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) February 20, 2023
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Wright broke down his mindset going up against Anderson recently with Brandon Thorn of Bleacher Report.
“I went into the game knowing that he doesn’t have many moves, I guess you could say,” Wright said about Anderson. “You think of a guy like B.J. [Ojulari from LSU], he has chops, he has spins. He has so much stuff. Will, his speed to power is just, so over. I mean, and credit to him, he used it well.”
Darnell Wright breaking down his 2022 matchup vs. Will Anderson 🔥https://t.co/8JT9JSzOFY pic.twitter.com/GIQFRQCGO5
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) March 1, 2023
In the latest mock draft from ESPN NFL expert Mel Kiper Jr. at the beginning of the week, Wright was projected as the No. 16 overall pick in the first round to the Washington Commanders.
“[Wright] started 42 games for the Volunteers, with 27 at right tackle, 13 at left tackle and two at right guard,” Kiper wrote. “That versatility is attractive to NFL teams, though I expect him to stick at right tackle at the next level. The Commanders need an injection of talent along the O-line. They ranked 28th in both yards per play on offense (4.9) and yards per rush on offense (4.0) last season.”
Will Anderson Jr., on the other hand, is projected as the No. 3 overall pick and the first non-quarterback to be selected by the Arizona Cardinals.
Since the end of the regular season, Wright has been skyrocketing up NFL draft boards as scouts continue to learn about his impressive traits. After competing at the Orange Bowl against Clemson, Wright also competed at the Senior Bowl back in February and is now waiting his turn at the 2023 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.