In 2014, there was no doubt that Arizona Wildcats linebacker Scooby Wright III was the most dominant defensive player in all of college football. Scooby swept every major individual award, and even finished 9th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
But 2015 came and went with the star linebacker only playing in about eight quarters of game action. He injured his knee in the season-opener against UTSA, which required him to miss the next three games.
Then, by his own admission, returned too soon for the UCLA Bruins game, and injured his opposite foot, which kept him out of the remainder of the regular season.
Wright returned for the New Mexico Bowl, and looked like his old self, piling up 11 tackles and two sacks against the New Mexico Lobos in what was his first game action in about three months. He immediately declared for the NFL Draft after the game, deciding to forego his senior season at Arizona.
Combine results (NFL.com)
Wright explained what happened at the NFL Combine, and why his numbers were so poor compared to the other linebackers there and compared to the expectations he had of himself. He improved upon just about everything at Arizona's Pro Day, especially his vertical, which went from 31" to 35", showing that he had gained his leg strength back.
Scooby will never put up impressive workout numbers in these situations, but in the middle of a football game, when are you going to do a broad jump, or run a 40-yard dash? Not often.
He also knows this, as he wrote in his Players' Tribune article: "Look, I'm a football player, plain and simple. Put me in sweats and ask me to run in circles around cones, and I'll do an okay job. But put me in pads and ask me to lead your defense, and there's a lot of evidence that I can help you win."
By far, the biggest strength Scooby possesses is his natural football instincts. Whenever Arizona's defense needed a big play, Scooby was right in the middle of it. He always finds his way to the ball, and then when he's there, he's looking to create a turnover by stripping it out, or just laying a huge hit on the ball carrier.
He's also proven to be very difficult to block. In 2014, he racked up 163 tackles (29 for loss), 14 sacks and six forced fumbles. It's unlikely we'll see another statistical season from a linebacker like that ever again. You don't just end up in the backfield that many times and make a play on accident.
Whichever NFL team pulls the trigger on Scooby will be getting one of the hardest working dudes out there. While recruiting rankings aren't the end-all, be-all, plenty has been written about how Wright went from a two-star recruit to a college football superstar. You don't make that jump without one of the best work ethics in football.
There were occasions where Wright took himself out of a play because he was too aggressive. He would get to the quarterback or running back but all of the sudden be five yards behind them because of how quickly and easily he was able to reach them.
I'd also say his coverage abilities are a bit below average. Of course, he wasn't asked to drop back in coverage very often at Arizona because he was best utilized as an extra lineman. His overall tackling ability is something that will probably need some work at the NFL level as well. Sure, he was able to bring down Pac-12 quarterbacks and running backs, but the strength of the professionals at those positions will keep them from succumbing to Scooby's tackling technique.
Zach Thomas. Over and over and over again we've heard this. Scooby even originally trained at the same place Thomas did, and then signed with Drew Rosenhaus, Thomas' former agent.
People are all over the board on this one. A site like Pro Football Focus has consistently had Scooby in the first or second round whenever they put out a mock draft. Before he got hurt, Todd McShay had Wright as a first-rounder, but since then, Scooby isn't even in the ESPN analyst's first three rounds.
It feels like the Arizona linebacker will go somewhere between the second and fifth rounds, but exactly when that happens is yet to be seen. The later he goes, the better he'll be in the league in my opinion.
Career stats (via sports-reference.com)