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Bears trade down, draft Tennessee OT Darnell Wright at No. 10

New Bears OL Darnell Wright
New Bears OL Darnell Wright

The Bears on Thursday traded down from No. 9 to 10 in the first round of the NFL Draft and selected Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright.

In the deal, the Bears obtained a fourth-round choice in next year's draft from the Eagles, who chose Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at No. 9.

Wright appeared in 47 games with 42 starts over four seasons at Tennessee, opening 27 contests at right tackle, two at right guard and 13 at left tackle. The versatile 6-6, 335-pounder did not allow a sack in his final 19 games with the Volunteers.

"You see on tape, I'm big and strong," Wright said on a Zoom call with Chicago reporters. "But 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 spoke to the media from a draft party he hosted for friends and family at a Knoxville, Tenn., hotel. He revealed that he was "in shock right now" after being picked by the Bears.

"I'm literally in shock," he said. "I'm just trying to put good sentences together and stuff. My head is racing 1,000 miles per hour."

Last year Wright was a unanimous first-team all-SEC selection after starting all 13 games at right tackle. He was one of only 14 FBS offensive linemen with more than 850 snaps played and no sacks allowed with an efficiency of 99.0 or better, according to Pro Football Focus.

As a junior in 2021, Wright started all 13 games at left tackle, blocking for a Tennessee offense that set school records with 511 points and 6,174 total yards.

Wright started nine games at right tackle as a sophomore in 2020 and opened five contests at right tackle and two at right guard as a freshman in 2019.

Wright had an inkling that the Bears were interested in him. First, he played in the Senior Bowl Feb. 4 on the American Team that was coached by Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.

"It was like a full-circle moment a little bit," Wright said. "It's crazy. It means a lot to know that I already have a relationship a little bit with that guy."

Later in the offseason, Wright spoke with the Bears at the Combine, was one of 30 prospects to visit Halas Hall and was worked out by offensive line coach Chris Morgan April 8 at the University of Tennessee.

"I knew coach 'C-Mo,'" Wright said. "I knew he liked me a lot. I knew [Bears general manager] Ryan Poles liked me a lot. [But] you never know.

"Coach C-Mo, we just actually got off the phone and he was saying it was so hard to not just call you and say, 'hey man, we're going to pick you.' But that's part of the game that they play. It's part of what they do. I don't know much about that, but I'm sure you don't want to show your hand before it's dealt."

Wright said that the workout that Morgan put him through was challenging and intense.

"He kicked my ass, if we're being honest," Wright said. "He wanted to see what I was made of. It was hard, but I didn't quit. I think he respected that. He put me through the ringer. We were out there working. He just wanted to see if I'd quit, and I wouldn't quit."

With the 10th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears select Tennessee OL Darnell Wright.

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