New Lions DT Gabe Wright again following in Nick Fairley's footsteps

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Gabe Wright heard the comparisons from the beginning, when he committed to Auburn just as Nick Fairley was departing for the NFL.

Wright was a defensive tackle. He had the potential to be a star. He was heading to Auburn and even had a somewhat similar game to Fairley's, so all of it made sense. So much so that Wright developed a relationship with Fairley and considers him a mentor.

“He just tried to tutor me on what freshman year was going to be like,” Wright said. “He had just got done playing and had one of the best careers at Auburn. I am an 18-year-old freshman and he just tried to tutor me on the things I am going to see on and off the field.

“How to be presentable and respectful around Auburn. It is definitely something I took to heart.”

Well, now he’s following Fairley again. Wright was taken by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round Saturday afternoon and is expected to slide into the defensive tackle rotation and perhaps eventually into a starting slot Fairley once inhabited.

Wright, who started 27 games at Auburn and made 86 tackles with six sacks in his career, hasn’t thought much about what it will be like to follow Fairley a second time, but he’s going to have to do it.

“We are going to rotate a lot of guys,” Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “We anticipate he is going to be part of that rotation at defensive tackle as he learns and at some point be a starter in there.”

That rotation is changing rapidly. Gone are Ndamukong Suh, Fairley, C.J. Mosley and, at least for now, Andre Fluellen. The new rotation now has Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, Caraun Reid, Jermelle Cudjo and Wright.

Austin, who said he fought to draft Wright in the war room, wanted to draft a tackle the team could line up with Ngata as a penetrator. Part of that combination is Walker. The other part could be Wright.

Wright could have left school after his junior season, but chose to return for his senior year and his performance dipped in every area last season other than his 10 quarterback hurries. The 23-year-old explained to teams throughout meetings he felt the falloff in his production could have been related to a combination of Wright’s focus, a shift of scheme at Auburn and being told shortly before the 2014 season he would be switched from defensive tackle to defensive end.

So he didn’t have a chance to prep that much. He doesn’t anticipate that happening in the NFL.

“When I go to the NFL, I am pretty sure I won’t be practicing at defensive end if I am going to be playing defensive tackle in the fall,” Wright said. “I feel like that in a sense of prep is where things will change. It was just the timing of it all.

“It is not an excuse I am lingering on but it is just something I know that if I had been properly prepped, then things would’ve been handled accordingly.”

There’s little question of where the Lions view Wright. He’s a defensive tackle, and while he had college career comparisons to Fairley, his college number will remind fans of someone else: Suh.

And he has no problem wearing No. 90.

Said Wright: “I wouldn’t mind that at all.”