The monumental slide of Darnell Washington was one of the biggest surprises in the 2023 NFL Draft. Prior to the draft, Washington was slated to be selected as early as the late first round with almost no chance of making it out of the second round. Eventually, the Pittsburgh Steelers pounced at the opportunity to land him with the 93rd overall pick in Round 3.
Washington was a former five-star recruit back in 2020 and the 23rd overall recruit in the nation, according to 247 Sports. The massive tight end out of Georgia was often referred to as 'the sixth offensive lineman'. He's a box-checker by the very definition. Here's my full scouting report on Darnell Washington:
- Ridiculous combination of size and length (measured in at 6'7'' and 264 lbs with an 83 3/4'' wingspan)
- Chiseled frame with outstanding core strength at the point of attack
- Humiliates smaller defenders in the running game
- Size, length, and strength allow him to act as an extra offensive tackle in '12' personnel
- Elite play strength with the right mentality
- Never lacks effort as a blocker
- Good movement skills with respect to his size, deceitfully fast in space
- Excellent contact balance to shed tackles and fall forward for extra yards
- Freakish catch radius that includes some insane receptions at Georgia
- Elite red zone tools thanks to size and ability to box out defenders
- A flat-out mismatch problem for smaller linebackers and safeties
- High floor thanks to his polish as a run blocker
- Strong, natural hands to pluck the ball out of the air in traffic
- Concerning medicals caused some teams to move him from their board completely
- Not particularly fast off the snap
- Not sudden as a route-runner, has a lot of work to do in this area
- A bit lumbering and stiff in his movements, despite excellent testing numbers
- Longevity concerns due to rumored knee issues
- May only be an average pass-catcher in the NFL
- May always be more of a blocking tight end than a receiver
- 28 receptions for 454 yards 2 touchdowns in 15 games in 2022
- 85.7 overall grade last year, per PFF (5th among tight ends)
- 16.2 yards per reception (17.2 Y/R in his career)
Projected role for the Steelers:
Darnell Washington will immediately slide in as the 'Y' tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers -- replacing Zach Gentry. Washington will be the TE2 to Pat Freiermuth but will be used in a very different role. While Freiermuth will handle the pass-catching role as the 'move' tight end, Washington will primarily be used as an in-line blocker during his rookie season. He will see the bulk of his work in two-tight end sets in '12' and '22' personnel. Washington will often act as an extra offensive lineman in the running game and will likely be used sparingly as a pass-catcher in year one.
NFL player comparison: Marcedes Lewis
This is one of the easiest players comps you could possibly give to a prospect going from college to the NFL. From both a size and playstyle comparison, it's so easy to see Marcedes Lewis in Darnell Washington. Coming out of UCLA all the way back in 2006, Lewis was a 6'7'', 261-pound tight end who excelled as an in-line blocker. Lewis only topped 550 receiving yards once in his career when he earned his lone Pro Bowl honors in 2010. Despite never lighting up the stat sheet, Lewis had a long, impressive NFL career thanks to his ability as a blocker.
Bottom line: Darnell Washington has an exceptionally rare combination of size, length, and strength at the tight end position that will help him thrive as a blocker and raises his floor. If he can stay healthy and develop as a receiver, look out.