Dolphins' draft 'steal' Wright has torn rotator cuff

Updated: May 1, 2006, 1:13 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Miami Dolphins may have landed the biggest steal in the draft when they selected University of Texas defensive tackle Rodrique Wright, considered a first-round candidate at the outset of the 2005 season and certainly a first-day pick in most analyses leading up to the lottery, in the seventh round on Sunday evening.

Unfortunately, Miami might have to wait until 2007 to reap the benefits of its heist.

Tests before the draft revealed that Wright, the 226th player chosen over the weekend and the last of the 23 defensive tackles selected to go off the board, has a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. The Dolphins will conduct a follow-up MRI exam later this week and may opt to have Wright undergo surgery to repair the condition.

If Wright does have surgery, there is a chance he could miss the entire 2006 season and, at best, wouldn't be available until the second half of his rookie campaign.

"If there's anything good in this, I guess it's that my stock dropped because of a medical condition, not because of my football talent," said Wright. "It's still disappointing, no doubt about that, but now the mystery is taken out of it. That helps a little bit."

Wright played much of his junior season and all of his senior year with the shoulder problem, but it wasn't until Dolphins coach Nick Saban phoned him Sunday morning that the former Longhorns star understood the seriousness of the injury and the possibility that surgery might be indicated. At least three other franchises had "red flagged" Wright as a medical risk and the Carolina Panthers removed him from their draft board entirely.

The injury never sidelined Wright for even a single game and he appeared in 50 contests in four college seasons. Notable is that, over his last two seasons, Wright's statistics were not nearly as prolific as in his first two years. As a freshman and sophomore, he totaled 145 tackles and 12 sacks. His numbers dropped to 82 tackles and 5½ sacks in 2004-2005.

There is a chance Wright could continue to play with the torn rotator cuff, but Saban said the condition could cut short his career. Because the Dolphins value Wright for the long-term, they may suggest he have the surgery sometime in the next few weeks, to get him quickly into a rehabilitation program. Such surgeries can require six months of rehabilitation for non-quarterbacks.

"If he continues to play with it," Saban said, "it's going to have a degenerative effect on his ability to play long-term."

Despite checking in at 6-feet-5 1/8 and 300 pounds, Wright actually has a lean frame and plays with good lateral range. He was clocked at 5.08 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, had a 32-inch vertical jump and performed 31 repetitions on the standard 225-pound bench press.

There is a chance he can continue to play tackle and perhaps even bulk up more if he stays at the position. Miami coaches also think he can play end, especially on the early downs in a 3-4 front. The Dolphins continued to incorporate more 3-4 looks, the scheme that Saban ultimately prefers as his base defense, during the offseason.

Whether they are able to incorporate Wright into the defense in general for 2006, or fix the shoulder now and risk losing him for his entire rookie campaign, probably will be determined later this week.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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