Unpacking Future Packers: No. 17, Tennessee RB Jaylen Wright

The Unpacking Future Packers Countdown is a countdown of 100 prospects that could be selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2024 NFL draft.

The Green Bay Packers just gave Josh Jacobs a four-year deal and is likely the No. 1 running back at 1265 Lombardi Avenue for the foreseeable future. AJ Dillon is back on a one-year deal and at this moment is a safe bet to be part of the running back rotation. 

With 11 picks at his disposal, Brian Gutekunst will likely be on the lookout for a running back to team with those two veterans. 

A potential target is Jaylen Wright. The Tennessee running back checks in at No. 17 in the Unpacking Future Packers Countdown.

A three-star recruit out of North Carolina, Wright rushed for 409 yards and four touchdowns during his first season on campus. The following season Wright rushed for 875 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

This past season Wright rushed for 1,013 yards and four touchdowns. He added 22 receptions for 141 yards. 

There are two sides to this coin. In one sense, he was extremely important to Tennessee’s offense last season,” Ryan Schumpert, a Tennessee reporter for Rocky Top Insider, said. “Wright was definitely the Vols’ best playmaker and in a season where Tennessee’s passing game took a sizable step back, the junior running back was so important to the success that they did have on that side of the ball. On the other hand, Tennessee still deployed a true “running back by committee” system and Wright only averaged 11.4 carries per game. But that makes Wright totaling 1,013 yards in 12 games all the more impressive. He was the first Tennessee running back to reach that mark since 2015. That lighter workload should bode well for his professional career too.”

Wright has a unique blend of size and speed. The former track star has home run ability and clocked a 4.38 40-yard dash at 210 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. This past season he averaged 7.4 yards per carry and 35 of his 137 rushing attempts went for 10-plus yards. 

The Tennessee running back is quick-footed and explodes through the hole. He makes sharp, controlled lateral cuts. Once he clears the hole he’s able to reach top gear in a blur. 

While his speed is his calling card, he has good contact balance and can shake off would-be tacklers. According to Pro Football Focus, Wright racked up 592 yards after contact and forced 43 missed tackles. 

It’s hard to pinpoint one specific strength because he is so balanced as a runner,” Schumpert said.  That was the cool part to watch about his three years at Tennessee. Wright was a high school track star who played at a small high school in North Carolina. As a freshman, he wanted to run around opponents and to truly lean on his speed. But he gained weight and became a very comfortable and effective runner between the tackles. He can get the tough yards between the tackles and has the strength that makes it difficult for defensive backs to tackle him while not losing the top-end speed. Wright’s 4.38 40-yard dash time shows that as did his breakaway 75-yard touchdown run against Georgia.”

During his first two seasons on campus, Wright hauled in eight receptions for 30 yards. This past season the former three-star recruit looked more comfortable as a receiver. With his track speed, Wright is a dangerous threat to take a screen to the house. While teams won’t be lining him up in the slot, he’s shown steady improvement as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

“This is another area where Wright improved throughout his college career,” Schumpert said. “Unfortunately, that improvement was from a running back who couldn’t do anything out of the backfield as a receiver to one that was capable of catching screens and some check-downs. Maybe he keeps improving there but I don’t envision him being much of a threat as a receiver out of the backfield in the NFL.”

Fit with the Packers

The Packers could stand to add some home run hitter in the backfield to pair with Jacobs and Dillon. With his speed and strength, Wright is a threat to rip off an explosive play every time he touches the ball and could be an ideal change of pace back in Green Bay’s backfield.

“How complete of a ball carrier he is,” Schumpert said. “I’m not sure there’s a better true runner in this draft class. He fully has the capability to be a No. 1 running back on a roster. If his time at Tennessee is any indication, he’s going to continue to get better.”

Wright led the Volunteers in rushing the past two seasons and did so in 2022, despite not being the starter. With his speed and ability to rip off explosive plays, Wright would appear to be the ideal third running back to pair with Jacobs and Dillon.

Wright is only 21 years old and he’s arguably one of the most explosive backs in the draft. Adding him to Green Bay’s young nucleus would give Matt LaFleur another weapon to play with.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire