Gabe Wright hopes that scouts give him a “mulligan” for his senior season, as 24 tackles and being benched for ten games was not what talent evaluators expected when the Tiger was regarded as a “round two guy” heading into the 2014 campaign. He did record ten QB pressures, but got to the passer just once while splitting time between both tackle spots. His 31 tackles and 8.5 stops-for-loss in 2013 matched his figures from his combined first two seasons.
Wright’s frame appears to have maxed-out at 316 pounds (was 285 as a recruit), but he tried to improve his lateral agility by dropping to 284 as a senior, but even though is is being considered as a versatile athlete who could fit as a defensive tackle/ "three"-technique in a 4-3 defense, his 5.07-second 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine could also show teams that he has the speed to fit at the end spot in 3-4 scheme.
Wright shows some stiffness in his hips, but has decent balance and adequate quickness and agility to pursue. One thing the coaches cite about him is his intensity, as he is a good competitor with the strength and improved hand technique to make plays at the line of scrimmage.
While his motor runs “hot and cold” on obvious running plays along the edges (rarely seen running long distances), Wright does show good aggression in close quarters, as he plays with a good chip on his shoulders fending off double team blocks. He’s the type who stick his hat in and pull players off the pile on fumble recoveries, but he has to show better urgency when it comes to chasing down running plays and screens.
He tried to generate better flexibility last season by dropping excess bulk, but seemed to wear down late in games and his technique greatly suffered (just five tackles, including one solo in three starting assignments in 2014, but three stops came vs. FCS Samford). That lack of stamina has teams wondering how to best utilize him if needed in a heavier rotation.
He has the ability to play hard between the tackles, but while he has a decent amount of QB pressures (28), he doesn't always chase the run and can gear down as a pass rusher, as he struggles to remain fresh when used in a steady rotation. One of his issues vs. the run is his short arms, as he fails to wrap and secure with any sort of consistency (86 tackles in 52 games).
Wright’s other issue is that while he shows urgency splitting double teams, his gap discipline is very inconsistent and he is often caught out of position when having to move down the line and locate the ball. Because of his shorter-than-ideal arms, there are times when he will be engulfed by bigger blockers when he fails to escape with his initial burst off the snap. He does have active hands though, along with decent balance to spin back into plays, but just lacks the ability to make plays outside the tackle box.
Wright does play with a low center of gravity that makes it easier to get under blockers and he also has the valid quickness to beat offensive guards and centers to the point. He has good ability to win one-on-one when he keeps his hands active and has the lower body strength to anchor vs. double-teams. He also demonstrates above-average upper body strength to control blockers once locks on.
Wright is powerful enough to reach out and grab a blocker with each hand and he plays with a wide base when asked to play the two-gap role. He is strong, but not big enough to play nose guard in one-gap scheme, as his base will narrow and he will lose balance when asked to charge up field (gap discipline is also a concern as a one-gap defender).
Even though Wright has had success pressuring the pocket, he doesn't close as well as his listed speed indicates, as he appears to be a step late getting to the quarterback. He is disruptive though, enough to move the quarterback off his pass-set point. He is quick to react to the snap and flashes the ability to shoot gaps, but he needs to locate the QB quicker when he penetrates the backfield.
As he showed during 2015 Senior Bowl practices, Wright is an aggressive hand fighter (his battled with Georgia Tech guard Shaq Mason was a classic) who has effective swim, rip and push-pull moves. He can shake the offensive linemen off with a quick spin move and when he takes proper angles, he has the ability to get under the centers and guards’ pads to drive them back, even though he has just average overall power as a bull rusher.
P>Teams looking for an interior line pass rusher will not consider Wright, as he seems limited in this area and doesn't figure to make much of an impact rushing the passer at the next level. Yes, he has the ability to collapse the pocket and get off blocks, but not a polished pass-rusher, as there are times he will forget his assignment and just play “Rock-‘Em, Sock-‘Em Robots” with the offensive lineman. He needs to be more alert to getting the seam and appears to have just adequate lateral mobility, failing to shake interior offensive linemen with side-to-side moves.
Gabe Wright Scouting Combine measurables
32 5/8-inch arm length
10 3/4-inch hands
26.5-inch vertical jump
100-inch broad jump
7.73 3 cone drill
4.56 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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