The Draft is a Crapshoot
Last year, there were 259 players selected in the NFL draft. The final player taken in the draft is called Mr. Irrelevant. Last year, it was Grant Stuard, the linebacker from Houston, drafted by Tampa Bay. He was one of the prospects I wrote about, I thought he had good potential as a special teams player. He made the Bucs roster and was a ST player for them.
Currently, PFF's draft simulator ranks a total of 356 players for you to choose from. Mr. 356, the very "worst" available player on their board is Alex Wright, a DE from UAB. You might call him Mr. Super Irrelevant, because his ranking is approximately 100 slots too low to be drafted. Brian Bosarge has him ranked similarly. Drafttek has him ranked 259th overall, so if they have him perfectly pegged, he very well could follow Stuard as the actual Mr Irrelevant in the 2022 draft. ESPN's board doesn't appear to have Wright ranked at all.
So, why am I doing a fanpost about him? If he's not a good prospect and is just another ordinary UDFA, why waste the time?
"Possible 3 down starter in the NFL...abundant potential...worth a middle round selection... tantalizing athletic skill set... one of the sleepers in this year's edge rusher class...well worth a Day 2 pick."
Those statements are part of the high praise Wright received from draft experts such as Lance Zierlein and Ian Cummings. Tony Pauline has Wright as the 77th overall prospect, which could make him either a late 2nd to early 3rd round pick. Shane Hallam has him at 94th overall, in the late 3rd round territory. Lance Zierlein gave Wright a 6.00 draft grade. A couple examples of other small school DEs who had lower grades are John Cominsky from Charleston, who was a 4th round pick in 2019 and a player the Rams showed interest in, who had a 5.90 grade, and John Franklin-Myers, a 4th round pick by the Rams in 2018 out of Stephen F. Austin, who also had a 5.90 grade.
Lance Zierlein compared Wright to Taco Charlton, who was a 1st round pick in 2017. If you took his draft grade from LZ, Wright would have been the 4th best DE in 2021. He might have been a 4th round pick at the slot where his buddy from UAB, Jordan Smith was drafted by the Jaguars.
From Humble Beginnings to Future Stardom?
Wright is from a small town in southeastern Alabama. He was more serious about band and basketball than football and didn't focus on FB until the end of his junior year. He weighed less than 230 pounds in HS and as a freshman at UAB was listed at 235 pounds.
Wright admits that early in his college career he didn't understand how to properly watch film. Sometimes, he's just freelance. He didn't pay attention to details. Still, he flashed pass rushing potential, with 4.5 sacks as a true freshman.
Overconfidence perhaps got the better of him, as he only had 1 sack his sophomore season. He was listed at 260 pounds in 2020. He says that the covid shutdown contributed to him putting on weight. Listed at 270 pounds in 2021, he made 8 starts and had 46 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and 7 sacks. He decided to be an early entrant in the draft.
At the Combine, Wright strained his left pec muscle doing the bench press. He didn't do any other drills and also didn't do testing at his Pro Day.
6'5 1/8'' tall, 271 pounds, 34'' arms, 9 1/4'' hands, 82 7/8'' wingspan. UAB listed him at 6'7'' tall.
Note his wingspan and arm length. He has a bigger wingspan than Hutchinson (78 1/8''), Thibodeaux (79.5''), Ojabo, Mafe, Cam Thomas, Karlaftis, Jermaine Johnson, Logan Hall, Ebiketie and other notable pass rushers in this class.
JFM is a different type of prospect, because he was a tweener between a DT and a DE. Wright is a tweener between OLB and DE. He played standing up as a 3-4 OLB and looks comfortable in that role, but he has the physical potential to bulk up and possibly play as a DE in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.
Wright has long legs, creating a relatively high center of gravity. He is raw and undisciplined at times. Still, the upside potential is evident, he can use his long arms to protect his legs from blockers and has pursuit range to take down ball carriers from behind.
If he could improve, the player I'd offer as a comp for his ceiling is Preston Smith, who was a 2nd round pick in 2015.
Preston Smith: 6'5'' tall, 271 pounds, 34'' arms, 10 5/8'' hands, 82 3/8'' wingspan. Had 6.10 draft grade.
Ignore the draft boards that have Wright ranked super low. He's a prospect to keep an eye on as we inch closer to the draft and a potential developmental edge rusher or DE for the Rams.