ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has been going back and forth regarding his first-round NFL projections from Tennessee in the last month.
In January, Kiper projected former Tennessee defensive lineman Byron Young to be the No. 20 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. This time around, though, Kiper has a different first-round projection from Tennessee.
In the updated NFL mock draft that Kiper released on Tuesday morning, the ESPN analyst has former Tennessee offensive lineman Darnell Wright going at No. 16 overall to the Washington Commanders.
“[Wright] started 42 games for the Volunteers, with 27 at right tackle, 13 at left tackle and two at right guard,” Kiper wrote. “That versatility is attractive to NFL teams, though I expect him to stick at right tackle at the next level. The Commanders need an injection of talent along the O-line. They ranked 28th in both yards per play on offense (4.9) and yards per rush on offense (4.0) last season.”
Darnell Wright is an outstanding talent in the upcoming draft and realistically is likely Tennessee’s best prospect. The 6-foot-6, 342-pounder started every game at right tackle for Tennessee last year and didn’t give up a single sack in the complex offense that the Volunteers ran under head coach Josh Heupel. Wright showed great conditioning, elite movement and power, and the ability to take out top-level talent.
It’s hard to remember Will Anderson Jr.’s great game against Tennessee this past season… because it didn’t happen. Wright was a nightmare for the future first-rounder all night and limited him to just three total tackles.
Trench Warfare preview: Tennessee RT Darnell Wright and I breaking down his matchup with Bama edge-rusher Will Anderson
Our FULL film room: https://t.co/CNY8EiRof9 pic.twitter.com/UhSDZq04Hr
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) February 15, 2023
More from RTI: Tennessee Football Releases ‘Mic’d Up’ Season Video
While neither was listed in the first-round mock draft from Tuesday morning, wide receiver Jalin Hyatt and edge rusher Byron Young are Tennessee’s two other first-round potential prospects.
Hyatt has been projected as a first-round draft pick by four different publications in the month of January, including a No. 12 projection from NFL.com and two projections to the Dallas Cowboys. Young, on the other hand, popped up on Kiper’s January mock draft as mentioned previously.
The 2023 NFL Draft will take place in Kansas City from April 27 to April 29.