Steelers Overreaction #3: Darnell Washington, both positive and negative
Arguably the best value the Steelers got in the draft, Darnell Washington is a mountain of a man that blocks well and tested out as a plus athlete. While the sky is the limit for Washington, early reactions have been extreme in both directions.
Right after he was drafted, fans were declaring him an already elite player that will revolutionize this offense. While I do expect him to carve out a role early on, he will be the second tight end behind Pat Freiermuth. The expectation is that this team is going to use more multi-tight end sets, but they have to prove that first.
While Washington could surprise me, I don’t expect him to have some sort of an elite receiving season. He didn’t do that in college, so there isn’t a reason to expect him to do that this year. While he could grow into that role, he will be a blocker first, especially during his rookie season.
That then leads to the second overreaction based around Washington. Reports surfaced during OTA’s that Washington looked bad as a route runner. Again, this shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, as Washington was a raw route runner in school.
Fans naturally translate athleticism to receiving ability, but that isn’t always the case. While Washington can provide a big-bodied target, he isn’t going to be a reliable receiver early on. He needs to grow into that role, and that is likely part of the reason he slipped into the late third round.
If Washington is a nasty blocker as a rookie, I’m happy. Receiving ability is secondary and something I expect him to fully grow into. He isn’t ready to be an elite playmaker yet, but that also doesn’t mean he can’t grow into that role over time.