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Nahshon Wright may be on his way to stealing a starting job at outside corner

It was a controversial draft selection, but Nahshon Wright is already proving doubters wrong.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys OTA Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With the 99th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select... Nahshon Wright, cornerback, Oregon State.”

Who?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

This was the experience for many Cowboys fans and, frankly, many other football fans who happened to be watching the draft at the time Dallas drafted Nahshon Wright. Not too many people were familiar with the guy who dominated junior college in 2018 before putting up two solid, yet largely unnoticed, seasons at Oregon State; those who were familiar with Wright’s game certainly didn’t think he was a top-100 prospect. Well, except for one person.

It’s very early, but Jonah Tuls of The Draft Network is looking like he got it (ahem) Wright. First, it was rookie minicamp where the oddly framed cornerback - Wright stands at 6’4” and just 185 pounds - first started turning heads. But now Wright is facing more than just fellow rookies in OTA’s, and he’s still looking good.

It really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, either. As Tuls said when Wright was first drafted, he’s an ideal fit in the kind of scheme new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is installing. In that scheme, where Cover 1 and Cover 3 shells are played the most, Quinn looks for big, long corners who can fly all over the field and make plays on the ball.

That pretty much describes Wright to a tee. His height is rare for NFL corners and his 78” wingspan ranked in the 91st percentile of all corners in this draft class. While Wright’s unofficial 4.46 40-yard dash at his Pro Day didn’t set the world on fire, it’s nearly identical to Trevon Diggs’ 40 time a year ago. More than that, Wright’s impressive broad jump showcased his forward explosion which is helpful when it comes to breaking on the ball, and his five interceptions in two years with the Beavers highlighted his play-making skills.

The Cowboys obviously liked those traits, and it’s why they felt comfortable selecting him where they did, even with other more prestigious cornerback prospects still on the board. The fact that he’s looked good enough thus far for Bryan Broaddus to single him out only justifies the assertion that Wright is in the perfect place for him to succeed.

But can he see the field in 2021? Odds are that Wright will get action on special teams, at the very least, but the prospect of him getting meaningful snaps on defense, or even starting, shouldn’t be ruled out just yet.

Kelvin Joseph was taken in the second round after the Cowboys missed out on Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II in the first round, and many assumed Joseph would slide in as the starting outside corner opposite Diggs. But Joseph has missed a considerable amount of practice time thus far in quarantine, and when he was on the field he wasn’t turning heads the way Wright has been. It’s part of the reason why Anthony Brown, the team’s top slot corner the last few years, has been taking first-team reps on the outside in lieu of Joseph.

Now that he’s returned to practice, Joseph will have some catching up to do. The reality is that we’re still very early into the process, and there is plenty of time for Joseph to meet those expectations of cracking the starting lineup. It’s also possible that the experienced Brown holds down that outside starting spot. But Wright is clearly thought of highly by this coaching staff right now, and if he keeps turning heads through training camp, it may not matter what Joseph does from here on out.