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A Scout’s Take on Darnell Wright and the Jalen Carter Situation

The Bears wanted Darnell Wright in the first round, but the best defensive tackle in the draft was there for the taking too. Greg Gabriel shares some thoughts on the process.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last night was the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and as expected, the Chicago Bears chose an offensive tackle which was one of their primary needs. The player selected was Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright, who has starting experience at both right and left tackle. He is perhaps the best pass-blocking tackle in this Draft and can be nasty as a run blocker.

My only concern about Wright early on in the process was if he could get out and play in space and be as productive as he is at the line of scrimmage. He proved at the Combine and his Pro Day that he was plenty athletic enough. There is no question that Darnell Wright is a plug-and-play draft pick. His selection gives the Bears two young tackles on rookie contracts for at least three more years. When trying to build a team, that is an important factor.

Wright weighed 332 at the Combine, and I highly doubt that will be his assigned weight with the Bears. Jimmy Arthur is the Bears' lead strength coach, and I know Jimmy very well. During the Lovie years, Jim was Rusty Jones' lead assistant, and he knows Rusty's program very well.

Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus was with Rusty for four years in Indianapolis and bought into Rusty's program, which is all about lean weight and body fat percentage. Rusty is adamant that fat guys can't play and are prone to injury, and statistics show he's right.

Under Rusty's and Jimmy's program, the offensive line has a body fat percentage set in the low 20s. With that in mind, my feeling is once the season starts, Wright will be closer to 320 than 333. Part of the program is about proper nutrition, so the players learn to eat properly, stay lean, and not lose strength but rather keep gaining strength.

As expected, shortly after the Wright selection was announced, the usual group of malcontents started to complain about the pick. They asked, "How could Poles pass on a talent like Carter?" The answer is easy, Cater has a huge bust factor, and Ryan Poles can not and could not afford to bring in a player with a high bust factor with his very first first-round selection.

When I came to Chicago in 2001, we did a study on high draft picks that busted. The reason was not that they lacked talent, but for the majority, it was lack of football character. It's a very simple equation, players with low football character rarely succeed in the NFL. They will stick around for a few years but seldom live up to their potential and eventually are out of the League.

Jalen Carter has immense natural talent, but both his football character and personal character are in question. Yes, he shows the ability to dominate, and when he is on his game, he is almost unblockable. The problem is, while there are plenty of dominant plays, there are just as many, if not more, plays where he is a complete non-factor. His desire to be a great player has to be questioned. Add in the fact that he has not been a reliable decision maker outside of football, and we can obviously see a problem.

Ryan Poles said at the Owner's Meetings in March that he did not believe the Bears locker room was ready to take on a player with questionable character. He's 100% correct. This team is very young, and they don't have enough veteran leadership like an Olin Kruetz, Alex Brown, or Adawale Ogunleye to handle problem rookies. Those players would teach young players how to be Pros.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who selected Carter, has that strong locker room. They also have Carter's best friend from Georgia, Jordan Davis, on the team. Davis is said to be the guy who kept Cater in line at Georgia prior to the 2022 season.

Carter may turn out to be a great player, but at this time, he was absolutely the wrong player for the Chicago Bears. As much as some people wanted Carter and complained about Poles not taking him, we can rest assured that those same people would be the first ones calling for Poles' head if Carter busts.

Rounds two and three are tonight, and I expect the Bears to load up on the defensive line, as that is the weakest position group on this team. The Bears may not find a player with the talent of Carter, but they will find a more reliable player.