We’re 83 days away from the Panthers 2022 season opener, so that means today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 83 on the roster — wide receiver Derek Wright.
Wright joined the Panthers this season as an undrafted rookie free agent from Utah State where he had a breakout senior season with 48 receptions for 789 yards and 11 touchdowns. He earned honorable mention All-Mountain West after averaging 59.4 receiving yards per game and 16.4 yards per catch in 2021.
His solid senior season in Logan, Utah came quite unexpectedly. Wright began his college career at the junior college level at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, and put up 46 receptions for 766 yards over two seasons. His play at the junior college level paved the way to Utah State in 2019 as a junior but in 10 games he only produced 102 receiving yards. During the 2020 COVID season he played in all six of Utah State’s games but had just 122 receiving yards.
Wright returned to Utah State for a final campaign in 2021 and that’s when he emerged from role player to fringe professional prospect with those 789 yards and 11 touchdowns. While the Mountain West isn’t the most competitive conference in the nation, Wright did face off against a few Power 5 schools and a couple of ranked teams last year. Against Washington State of the Pac-12 he had four receptions for 38 yards in a win. Against BYU, then ranked No. 13 nationally, he had five catches for 52 yards in a losing effort. In the Mountain West conference championship game against No. 19 San Diego State he had six receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown in a convincing Utah State victory.
In his final collegiate game, a 24-13 victory over Oregon State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, Wright went for three receptions for 33 yards and also completed a 34-yard pass. Thanks in part to Wright’s efforts, Utah State finished the 2021 season with an 11-3 record and ranked No. 24 in the AP poll.
The 6’1, 195-pounder fared well at Utah State’s Pro Day. According to KSL Sports, his 21 bench press reps were more than any wide receiver at the official NFL combine. He ran a sub-4.55 40-yard dash and a 7.0 second 3-cone drill, so he has some speed and quickness. His 38-inch vertical jump would have placed him seventh among wide receivers at the combine. You can see some of his burst on this 76-yard touchdown grab.
Every UDFA is in for a fight to make the 53-man roster, and that holds true for Derek Wright. He only had one good college season and it came against Mountain West competition. I like Wright’s athleticism but we’ll have to wait and see if that translates at the NFL level. Success for him will be making the practice squad.
What do you think? Can the one-year wonder from Utah State stick around Carolina in 2022? Share your thoughts with us!
What will happen with Derek Wright?
This poll is closed
Makes the 53-man roster
Makes the practice squad
Competes in training camp then gets released