The difference between a first-round pick becoming a success story or a bust in the NFL often has nothing to do with physical ability. Instead, it’s about whether the player has the correct mental approach and toughness to thrive in the pressure of expectations that come with being a first-rounder.
Chicago Bears 2023 first-round pick Darnell Wright certainly has the natural physical talent to be one of the NFL’s top offensive tackles. He’s quickly proving to have the right mental makeup too.
“I embrace expectations upon myself,” Wright said in his introductory press conference at Halas Hall Friday. “I have expectations upon myself bigger than just football. I have expectations to take care of my family. I don’t know what my role for the team is, but whatever that role is I’m going to take it full on and do my best I can.
“So, I’m not sure what that role is, whether it’s play right tackle or play wide receiver. Somebody tell coach that. But whatever that role is, I just want to try to do my best, whatever I can do.”
Bears counting on Darnell Wright to be immediate starter
Expectations for the Bears’ new starting right tackle will be high in 2023. Wright is viewed as the final piece of an offensive line overhaul that began in free agency with the signing of guard Nate Davis. The former Tennessee Titan will start at right guard, moving Teven Jenkins to the left side, and Cody Whitehair to center.
General Manager Ryan Poles put a bow on his offensive line reconstruction with his first-ever first-round pick, tabbing Wright as the guy he trusts will keep QB Justin Fields safe.
“That’s my job to keep him clean,” Wright said. “Amazing, amazing quarterback and the things he does, we’re going to have a great team. We’re going to have a very good team and it’s going to be great. Whatever I can do, no matter what that role is for the team, protecting him is going to be my job.
“You think about last year, the things that he did, he seems like he’s just getting better and better and better. I’m happy to be here and do whatever I can for him.”
Bears pegged Wright as OT1 after pre-draft workout
The Chicago Bears fell hard for Darnell Wright during the run-up to the 2023 NFL Draft. They put him through his paces during a private workout and gained a better understanding of his mental toughness. It resulted in Wright being OT1 inside Halas Hall.
“He’s just a really big athlete,” Eberflus said after the draft. “We talked about his feet and his ability to regain, if he loses his balance and gets off balance, he can regain and reset his hands inside to be able to protect. So, a fabulous energy with him.
“He’s a willing learner, wants to get better. We see a lot of upside with him too. We feel that he was the best lineman in the draft, but we also know that he’s got the best upside for growth potential. We’re excited about where he is.”
Eberflus called Wright a “really good worker” and said he will “be a force” for Chicago in 2023, sentiments that are in lockstep with Poles.
Mental toughness a key trait for Poles, Bears
“There’s an attitude,” Poles said. “There’s a mental toughness that you have to have to play this game. We brought him in deep water (during the workout) to see if he could swim or not, and he accepted the challenge and he showed us the grit and the mental toughness to be able to fight through fatigue and all those things that we look for. It was really a good experience from start to finish, a guy that we were comfortable with as being the top tackle in the draft, so we’re pumped about that.”
It all comes back to Wright, however. His general manager, head coach, and position coach can all love his traits and college tape. But he has to be the one who puts it all together on the field on Sundays.
“When you’re looking at offensive linemen, you want clean hands,” Poles said. “He’s got some technique to work on—all of them do—but the one thing that I look for is if you miss with your hands and your technique’s a little bit off on a certain play, [do you] still have the ability to anchor up? If we can clean those little details up—hand usage, angles, things like that, pad level—we think the sky’s the limit for him.”