Bears bet on Justin Fields by passing on Jalen Carter to draft Darnell Wright

The Chicago Bears need a three-technique defensive tackle. Georgia’s Jalen Carter, considered perhaps the best defender in the 2023 draft class, was miraculously on the board at No. 9.

Sure, Carter had character concerns. He was involved in a tragic accident in Athens, Ga this offseason and charged with two misdemeanors as a result. He showed up to his pro day overweight and couldn’t finish the day’s drills. 

But Carter is ludicrously talented. He interviewed well with teams. He was worth taking a chance on. Surely, with as big a need as the Bears’ defense had, they would take him, right?


No sooner were the Bears on the clock did they trade their No. 9 pick, acquired from the Carolina Panthers for trading out of the No. 1 spot, with the Philadelphia Eagles to move back one spot and add a fourth-round pick in 2024. 

And by doing that, they let Philadelphia take the chance on Carter — and showed just how much character and culture mean at 1920 Football Drive.

Then, with the No. 10 overall pick, Chicago selected offensive tackle Darnell Wright.

“My head is racing 1,000 miles-per-hour,” said an emotional Wright on a video conference call immediately following the selection with Chicago media.

In a year all about quarterback Justin Fields and figuring out whether he’s the future in Chicago, the Tennessee product will instantly make the Bears’ offense better. In his last season for the Volunteers, he did not surrender a single sack, and allowed just eight total pressures.

Yes, even in games against both Alabama and Georgia.

Wright is as battle-tested as they come thanks to his SEC pedigree. The 6-foot-5, 333-pound offensive tackle ranked third among his position in total score at the Scouting Combine, according to the NFL.

At Tennessee, he played on both sides of the line, something that undoubtedly intrigued the Bears given that their rookie left tackle, Braxton Jones, played every single snap for Chicago last season as a fifth-round pick. Jones has spent all offseason trying to get stronger and it seems Bears brass wants to give him a shot to keep his position. Wright could fit in on the other side. 

“Left or right, I don’t think it really matters,” said Wright.

And while Wright himself may have been a little shocked and surprised, the Bears were already familiar with the young tackle.

Chicago offensive coordinator Luke Getsy coached this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Al. and had Wright on his squad. Both head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles were in attendance to support Getsy and get their own look at prospects. They ended up getting a good look at their future first-round pick.

“It was like a full-circle moment a little bit,” said Wright. “It means a lot (that) I already have a relationship with them.” 

The Bears have made no bones about it. Their priority is Fields. And they may have just put the final piece of the offensive puzzle in place.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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