Height: 6′ 7″
Weight: 264 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.64s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: 4.08
Vertical Jump: 31″
Broad Jump: 10-2
Bench Press: 21
*age is at the start of player’s rookie year
Darnell Washington, a 4-star high school recruit, played football and basketball before committing to Georgia. He was also selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game and was named to the USA Today All-USA and NIAA All-State Class 4A Second Team offenses in high school. He had limited receptions in his first two years of college but showed strong pass protection skills (he allowed no sacks his sophomore year). In his junior year, he improved with 26 catches for 417 yards and two touchdowns. Before his junior year, he earned a spot on the John Mackey Award preseason watch list.
Washington’s physicality is a standout trait, both as a runner after the catch and as a blocker. He brings a mauler mentality to his blocking game, consistently finishing blocks and redirecting defenders out of running lanes. He excels as a run blocker, with a frame that can carry even more weight, and you could mistake him for a seasoned pulling guard. As a pass blocker, he’s equally impressive, and he easily handles blitzing linebackers on the edge. In his 72 instances of being used strictly in pass protection, he didn’t give up a single pressure.
Despite his size, he displays glimpses of above-average athleticism, including solid long-strider acceleration and flashes of agility. While he can improve his consistency and technique, his physical tools make him a dangerous threat on the field.
Washington’s game appears to lack explosiveness as he struggles to create separation from defenders despite being comfortable in traffic. His average long speed and lack of a second gear make him unable to challenge the defense at the top level. Although he played three years for the Bulldogs, Washington was only targeted 45 times, indicating he wasn’t extensively involved in their offense as a receiver. Moreover, his inability to accelerate out of breaks and limited production makes him an unremarkable short-range threat that doesn’t warrant safety help over the top. These weaknesses could prevent him from becoming an effective player in the NFL.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 1
After his impressive combine performance, it’s likely that Washington will be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. While he may have some limitations in his game, his agility and explosiveness demonstrated in the combine have caught the attention of many teams in need of a high-upside behemoth at tight end. Ultimately, his draft position will depend on how teams weigh his potential against his limitations, but it’s clear that he has boosted his stock with his combine showing. I predict him landing with the Chargers or even the Texans if they want to trade up from their 2nd rounder.
Post Draft Analysis
Pittsburgh Steelers - Round 3, Pick 30
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected tight end Darnell Washington in the third round of the draft, a move that is poised to enhance their offensive strategy. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada is focused on the team’s running game, and Washington’s skill set will prove valuable in achieving this goal. With the Steelers frequently employing two-tight-end formations, Washington’s addition will likely increase the use of this formation, as he was considered the best blocking tight end in the 2023 draft class. The Steelers’ tight end room, boasting players like Zach Gentry and Pat Freiermuth, will benefit from Washington’s 6-foot-7 ½, 264-pound frame, providing size and strength to support the run game. The Steelers’ emphasis on running was evident in the latter part of the 2022 season, as they ran the ball more than they passed in the final three games. This trend is expected to continue with the drafting of Washington and his former Georgia teammate, left tackle Broderick Jones. Together, Jones and Washington will contribute significantly to the Steelers’ offensive strategy, helping the team become more consistent in their running game and solidifying their identity on the field.
While Darnell Washington’s immediate fantasy impact may be limited, savvy fantasy football managers should keep an eye on his potential for future growth. Washington’s primary role as a blocker between the 20-yard lines means that most of his opportunities to accumulate fantasy points will arise from red zone targets. His impressive size and athleticism position him as an attractive option for quarterback targets in close-range situations. However, it’s essential to consider that Pat Freiermuth will likely continue as the top receiving tight end for the Steelers, which could initially limit Washington’s targets and overall fantasy value. As Washington refines his skills and becomes more acclimated to the NFL, his role within the Steelers’ offense may expand, subsequently boosting his fantasy relevance. In the meantime, astute fantasy managers should track his development and view Washington as a potential high-upside sleeper or a speculative stash in deeper leagues, especially those that reward touchdown-heavy performances.