This may be the only story you read from the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine that isn’t about Jalen Carter, Anthony Richardson, Nolan Smith, Calijah Kancey, or all 204 pounds of Bryce Young. Among the four NFL Draft prospects I fell in love with at the combine was Tennessee’s Darnell Wright.
Nearly every player invited to the combine had the opportunity to impress the league’s top brass through formal interviews and on-field tests. Some, like Richardson, a quarterback from Florida, and Kancey, a defensive tackle from Pittsburgh, wowed scouts and the media with their unprecedented workout performances. Others, like Georgia defensive tackle Carter, were embroiled in controversy that marred public perception of them.
ESTES: What I actually heard and what the Tennessee Titans said at the NFL Combine are the QB options: Examining the Tennessee Titans’ QB draft options and why Bryce Young makes more sense than Will Levis. However, the 40-yard dash is just one part of the combine. After speaking with and watching these four players at the NFL Combine, I believe they all have the potential to transform the Tennessee Titans’ roster.
Darnell Wright Wright, an offensive tackle for Tennessee, might have been the most impressive and analytical speaker at the combine. He spoke with intelligence and confidence about the art of pass protection in a way that few other prospects could or would. He went into incredible detail about how he was able to stop top edge rush prospects B.J. Ojulari and Will Anderson. He talked about the differences between speed rushers, power rushers, and finesse rushers and how offensive linemen can make simple, observable changes to their footwork to make sure they counter a rusher’s strengths with their own.
Wright is projected to be selected early in the third round and is rated 11th by ESPN Scouts Inc. However, he will ascend boards. His intelligence is obvious, and as more scouts investigate prospects from Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Clemson, they will see more video of Wright’s success against so many high-caliber prospects.
The Titans still probably won’t take Wright at number one. 11 in the first round, but if general manager Ran Carthon trades back in the first round or if Wright is still available in the second, the Titans should draft a smart, productive, versatile lineman who could immediately strengthen their weakest unit.
Tre Tucker, a wide receiver for Cincinnati, stands at 5 feet 9 inches and weighs 182 pounds. In some ways, Tucker is the Titans’ least likeable prospect. He is a small, shaky wide receiver who excels as an under-the-shoulder target and confuses defenders in space. He seems like exactly what the Titans are looking for in other ways. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds, which was one of the best times in Indianapolis. He also talks a lot about special teams. At Cincinnati, he played for Luke Fickell, who was a close friend and supporter of Titans coach Mike Vrabel.
In the worst case, Tucker would immediately improve as a punt and kick returner. In college, he averaged 25 yards per return and returned two touchdown kickoffs, but he says he prefers to return punts.
At best, Tucker adds something to this Titans offense that has been lacking: an underhanded presence capable of horizontally spreading the field and opening up vertical lanes for Chig Okonkwo and Treylon Burks. Tucker is a great value play for the Titans in two major needy areas and should be available as a late Day 3 pick.
YaYa Diaby, a Louisville edge defender, looked me square in the face on Wednesday and said, “You’re going to be writing about me tomorrow.” He was only off for a few days.
Diaby stated that teams were skeptical of his straight-ahead speed prior to the combine. At 6’3″ and 263 pounds, Diaby ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds. Only Nolan Smith’s 10-yard split was more explosive among defensive ends. Additionally, among defensive ends, his vertical leap ranked fourth.
Like Smith, Diaby is a linebacker who weighs 238 pounds. He has the stature and size to play the five-technique over tackles. Last year, his best performances were against the best opponents; Against ranked teams and a bowl game, he had 4 sacks and 8 TFLs. Diaby, a young Day 3 prospect, could be the spark the Titans require to strengthen their defensive line.
Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia quarterback, Pay attention. Listen to me.
Bennett is not a quarterback in the NFL’s starting lineup in nearly every way. He is too little. He acts too quickly. He lacks enough twitching and instinct. He is old enough. He was shielded by excellent college tight ends and linemen. There are concerns regarding off-the-field judgment. All of it is true.
Aside from C.J. Stroud, he was also the most impressive thrower at the combine. His deep throws were spot-on, his max velocity throw was as quick as Will Levis’ (sorry, his noodle arm), and his short throws were typically crisp.
The NFL’s toughness without a dependable backup quarterback was demonstrated last year. That person can be Bennett. Additionally, we have all witnessed what he does when placed in games that he is not supposed to win. He prevails. He’s faster than people think (4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash is faster than Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, and others) and conducts interviews like a man who has grown so used to being questioned that it no longer makes any sense.
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