clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016 NFL Draft: Scooby Wright Scouting Report - Don't do this

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker production is one of the most misleading statistics in all of football. People can see eye popping tackle numbers and attribute it to an amazing player. We see this at the college and NFL levels with how linebackers are recognized and praised. Sure, great linebackers will probably accumulate nice numbers, but having 130 tackles in a season doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Enter Scooby Wright: The Arizona linebacker put his name on the map in 2014 when he racked up 160 tackles and an eye popping 31 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks. That is bat shit crazy production. Wright garnered massive award recognition, being named Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Bronco Nagurski winner, Chuck Bednarik winner, Lombardi Award winner and a consensus All American. Wright had one of the most statistically impressive linebacker seasons in college football history and ended up as one of the highest decorated players as a result. His 2014 season got the NFL draft media abuzzing about what he could be in the NFL. Many people scrambled to anoint him as a potential first round pick and future star. Well, as it turns out... Nope.

Linebacking production is misleading because so many tackles can result from "hustle" downfield and, unsurprisingly, many of Wrights tackles came far down the field, some of which just involved him falling near a tackled player and getting a tick on the stat sheet for being involved. Home stat keepers LOVE inflating linebackers stats and Scooby Wright was a major beneficiary of that.

What Scooby does best as a player is hustle. It is such an overplayed trope, but Wright is a smart enough player and hustles on each play to try to get in on it. It is an admirable trait, for sure, but being smart and having a high motor will not do much for a player once he gets to the NFL.

"But Ben!" The people cry. "How can Sir Wright have all of those shiny tackles for a loss and sacks?"

Well, because Wright has incredibly poor range as a linebacker, Arizona usually asked him to be a battering ram a majority of the time. They asked him to get downhill on passing plays and running plays, because if he was regularly asked to diagnose and attack in space, he would be a massive liability. So Wright was always attacking the line of scrimmage by way of design and because of motor and physicality, he was able to pretty much luck into a heap of clean up sacks and tackles for loss. He was force-fed production.

Think of it this way... If you took a really bad NFL running back, like Demarco Murray for example, and gave him 400 carries, he would likely have decent numbers even though his efficiency would be crap. Similarly, Wright was given the linebacker equivalent to 400 carries, but because there is no efficiency stat for linebackers, his numbers just look really good.

Wright served his role in college, obviously, but the truth is just that he is not an NFL caliber athlete. He is slow coming downhill, it looks physically painful for him to move laterally and he doesn't have a lot of juice in his lower or upper body. He is physical, sure, but physicality means very little when a player doesn't have good strength on the field and does not have the lower body strength to be an impact tackler. People love to make quips about he won't give up on plays, but that is literally the only way he would be able to produce and he will usually make the play well after it should have already been made.

Was Wright an outstanding college player? Absolutely and his parents will always have those trophies on their mantle. However, Wright does not have the size or athletic ability to play inside linebacker at the NFL level. On top of that, he was dealing with knee injuries his entire final season at Arizona, which could only do worse to his movement skills which are already a liability.

NFL Comparison: Wright is a bit like Paul Dawson last year. Like Dawson, Wight had a lot of splash plays in college that he kind of lucked into but still stuck in people's brains. Also like Dawson, he has marginal size and athletic ability that would make getting on the field very hard at the NFL level.

I could not see the Eagles being interested in Wright. At the least, Jim Schwartz has always preferred bigger, heavier linebackers with long arms. Wright has a thick build, but has puny arms. Also, a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense is asked to cover a lot of ground on a consistent basis and it would be idiotic to ask that of Wright

I do not think Wright is a draftable player, but his intangible traits should give him a shot at a roster spot. He is a cerebral player and has a lot of qualities coaches would want in their locker room. It is not completely out of the realm of possibility that Wright ends up being an impact special teams player in the NFL given his hustle and love for running into things. Just don't ask him to play linebacker during a regular season game.