There might not be a more decorated college linebacker in recent history than Arizona Wildcats inside linebacker Philip "Scooby" Wright. In 2014 Scooby won the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Bronco Nagurski Award, the Rotary Lombardi Award and was named unanimous first team All-American and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Wright’s 2015 campaign was hampered by an injury. When Scooby was on the field he was undeniably one of the best college defensive players in the country, but a meniscus tear in his left knee and a foot sprain limited him to only 3 days for the Wildcats. The former two-star recruit made a name for himself by constantly being around the football and wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. Scooby’s elite football instincts has led him to being one of the most dominant players in college football, but his reliance on his instincts rather than physical tools may hurt his draft stock in some scouts’ mind.
The first words out of any coach or scout when they are talking about Scooby is his instincts. Scooby has an extraordinary understanding of the game and his ability to read an offense and find the ball has led to his collegiate success. Wright is able to anticipate snap counts, read holes, and check into the right defense with his advance football awareness. Wright’s athleticism is an area for concern, but he is still has good balance and decent lateral quickness. He is able to compensate for his lack of elite speed with his ability to anticipate the play and complete trust in his instincts without any moment of hesitation, which often makes him appear faster than he is. Wright’s extremely competitive nature is also evident in his style of play. Wright fierce and quick hands when he sheds blocks and his ferocious pursuit of the quarterback when he blitzes displays his intense competitiveness. He stays on the field for virtually every snap of the game and his motor does not seem to fade and he always seems to be the one that makes the big stop of a critical down in end of games. For being considered of having an ideal inside backer frame, Wright’s 6 feet 246 pound frame, is not outside the realm of other NFL starting insider backers, and his work ethic in the gym is well documented, so he could improve his strength in the league. He reminds me of former Miami Dolphins LB Zach Thomas.
The biggest knock on Scooby Wright is his athleticism. As so many other players make up for their lack of collegiate production with impressive performances at the combine, Scooby’s standout statistics and achievements may be overshadowed by his lack of impressive measurables in Indianapolis. When you put on the tape, Scooby tends to play the game at a more upright position than most scouts like to see. Wright has a more top heavy frame and instead of making tackles from a semi squatting position he is prone to leaving his feet, which can lead to missed tackles in the NFL. Sometimes Scooby’s trusts in his instincts can hurt him, because he is prone to over pursue the runs and leaves room for cut back lanes in a unique defensive scheme ( 3-3-5) where he mainly rushed the passer and rarely dropped back in coverage. In the NFL where a linebacker’s ability to play in coverage is becoming more and more paramount it is definitely a concern and something to keep in mind when he is asked to move in space at the combine. The knee injury last year is definitely still a concern and it is critical he looks completely healed during the combine and his pro-day.
Overall, Scooby has been labeled a better football player than athlete, and in some cases that can translate into a special NFL talent. Underwhelming physical specimens like former Miami Dolphin linebacker Zach Thomas or Drew Brees are examples that elite football intelligence or toughness can overcome the lack of prototypical physical tools. Scooby has displayed that he is capable of possessing both and if he can be drafted in the middle rounds (3-5) you know you will being getting a gym rat, football junky, who is going to push everyone else around him regardless of playing time. If taken in the middle rounds Scooby’s floor will be a standout special teams and practice player and his ceiling is a quarterback of the defense starting middle linebacker with a chip on his shoulder.
The Miami Dolphins are in a desperate need for playmakers and leaders in their linebacking corps, and a proven tackling machine and leader like Scooby could be a great addition. Koa Misi, Kelvin Sheppard, Jelani Jenkins, and others were not able to take advantage of the strong defensive line play in front of them, and too often missed tackles and failed to fill gaps. The linebackers for the Dolphins were the least productive unit arguably on the team and need significant upgrades, and considering one scout already likened Scooby Wright to former Dolphin great Zach Thomas, Miami would be thrilled to be able to add Scooby to their roster. Fortunately for the Dolphins (unfortunately for Scooby) I think as the pre-draft process goes on and we get further and further removed from what you did on the field in pads and what you do in a workout in shorts Scooby’s draft stock will fall and he will be available in possibly the third or fourth round. Without the pressure of a high pick spent on Wright he could be a perfect feel good story of the draft for both sides and help bring both a high football IQ and toughness to the Miami defense.