Wright ran sub-5.0 despite extra weight

Updated: July 9, 2005, 5:45 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In front of an audience of 50 scouts representing nearly every franchise in the league, Southern California defensive tackle Manuel Wright, the top prospect in next Thursday's supplemental draft, turned in a Friday workout reminiscent of his college career.

Which is to say the audition, considered critical in determining Wright's value, drew decidedly mixed reviews, even from representatives of some of the franchises that have indicated the most interest in the underclassman.

As was the case on the field during his two seasons with the Trojans, when he was a key backup, Wright's most notable moments on Friday were offset by glaring weaknesses. The consensus remains that Wright will be a third- or fourth-round choice in the draft, which features at least six other confirmed prospects, all of whom have lost their college eligibility because of academic lapses or other off-field issues.

Wright, who measured slightly more than 6-feet-5 and weighed 329 pounds on Friday, had been declared academically ineligible this spring and was the first player to apply to the NFL for entry into the supplemental draft.

The high point for Wright during his eagerly anticipated workout was a sub-5.0 time in his third 40-yard effort of the session. Not only was the time impressive, but scouts noted that it came after Wright had pulled up earlier in the workout with what appeared to be a strained right hamstring.

"I was showing I had heart," Wright told the Los Angeles Times of his insistence that he finish the workout despite the injury. "[I was] showing I could ride it out and stick it out."

Two elements of the workout, though, clearly concerned some talent evaluators.

First, even after two months of preparation for the audition, Wright's conditioning was questionable, and his weight excessive. Most teams had hoped he would be in the 310- to 315-pound range, and the extra tonnage made him appear spent at times. Second, in an effort that was definitely insufficient, Wright was able to produce just 16 repetitions of the standard 225-pound bench press.

The average number of lifts by the 17 defensive tackle prospects for the 2005 draft who performed the drill at the February combine in Indianapolis was 27 repetitions. None of those tackle prospects posted fewer than 21 repetitions and four of them raised the bar 30 or more times. Wright's former Trojans teammates, Mike Patterson and Shaun Cody, who started ahead of him and were among the top 37 players chosen in the 2005 draft, posted 26 and 34 repetitions, respectively.

At least three teams -- Miami, Cincinnati and Jacksonville -- had private interviews with Wright in recent weeks. Scouts from several more teams huddled with him Thursday in Los Angeles, in advance of his workout. It remains to be seen how the workout affects interest in Wright, who is blessed with superb pure athletic skills but could be undone by his suspect effort.

There may be some teams, particularly given a historical difficulty in unearthing quality defensive tackle prospects, still intrigued by Wright and his physical potential. But the club that selects Wright next Thursday -- and there seems little doubt he will be picked -- will have to forfeit a corresponding-round choice in the '06 draft. So while there remains interest in Wright, teams will be wary of using a high-round choice to get him.

Wright started only two games for the Trojans and finished his college career with just 31 tackles and three sacks.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

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