As we have covered heavily this offseason, the Seattle Seahawks need another pass catching weapon to go along with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Luckily for them, this year’s NFL Draft class features one of the greatest tight end groups ever. We have already covered two of the top tight ends in this class and in this article, we will review former University of Georgia tight end Darnell Washington.
Relative Athletic Score (RAS)
- Biggest strength - run blocking - He is an advanced run blocker who grades out as very good (7) and is effectively like having a 6th offensive lineman on the field. His strike point with his hands is always accurate, hitting defenders square in the chest plate. His hands are not heavy but with his play strength they do not need to be. He is able to stand up to edges clearing them out of lanes on reach blocks with little problem. When taking on an edge or linebacker 1-on-1 he is routinely able to square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage to seal them off from the lane entirely. He is fantastic on pin-and-pull blocks preventing edges from getting anywhere near the ball carrier as he forces them inside.
Darnell Washington: Mauler pic.twitter.com/F2zmCNioX5— King of Phinland (@KingOfPhinland) March 23, 2023
Darnell Washington vs. 2 defenders on the edge — who ya got? pic.twitter.com/thTSmFhg9A— Brent Rollins (@BrentRollinsPhD) March 28, 2023
- Importantly, Washington is able to stay engaged with second and third level defenders down the field throughout the course of the block. He is able to physically dominate them and at times tosses them to the side like they are rag dolls. Despite his massive frame Washington does not struggle to gain leverage on smaller defenders. He works under their pad level in short yardage situations, making him an even bigger asset in the running game.
- He is able to go up and catch balls thrown above the goal post because of his natural size and length. He also possesses the body control necessary to flip hips in the air and bring in a ball behind him. His size allows him to box out smaller defenders on back shoulder throws and fades which makes him an even bigger weapon on these styles of throws. He is a weapon on seam and vertical routes because of his size and mismatch ability as highlighted above.
Darnell Washington is a freak pic.twitter.com/3yPoPb0io7— Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL) March 22, 2023
- With the ball in his hands, Washington is a load. He does not have any ability to make defenders miss nor does he have run away speed; however, his size and power make it extremely difficult for defenders to bring him down.
- He is able to run through defenders relatively easily dragging them as he continues to run, resulting in some massive yards after the catch numbers. It often takes 2-3 defenders to bring him down and even still he falls forward and is able to pick up 5 or so yards after the catch.
- In pass pro Washington was more than able to hold his own, even when he was matched up 1-on-1 versus an edge defender. He was able to anchor down or force them up field past the quarterbacks drop point.
- Biggest weakness - route running - Washington looks stiff and struggles to get a head of steam going. Out of either a two- or three-point stance he is sluggish and even four or five steps into the route looks slow. On deeper routes he is able to slowly get quicker but not any type of speed that is going to be able to create separation. He struggles to flip his hips and drop low to sell whip routes, meaning he has to break it down making it look slow and uncomfortable. On routes like hitches though he looks slow at the stem and tries to press that corner to sell something up field, but they rarely bite on it because of his speed.
- He has no advanced route tendencies in his arsenal and his release is mediocre. He is unable to create any type of natural separation meaning defenders are able to stay in phase with him throughout the course of the route relatively easily.
- Washington showed an average understanding of zone coverage, as at times he slowed it down in a window preventing himself from running into the next zone defender. However, there were other instances in which he continued running at the same speed making it a more difficult throw for the quarterback.
Floor/ceiling - Washington’s massive frame, very good run blocking, play strength, good pass blocking, and mismatch ability give him the ceiling of a 3-down starting tight end. However, his inconsistencies as a route runner, stiff hips and mediocre (4) play speed, release and separation give him the floor of a backup tight end.
Grade - 6.5 - low end starter first day of second season - Late second round
Grade explanation - Washington is an unbelievable blocking tight end and gives him a high base grade as a result. His floor is low because of his abilities as a receiver, which personally I do not think are going to improve down the road. He is a stiff route runner, and no part of his game is particularly fluid as a receiver, which is not something that suddenly changes down the road. He will be a major threat in the red zone but outside of that I do not see him impacting the passing game as a receiver which is the reason his grade is lower for me.
Schematic fit - Washington projects best as a Y tight end in a run-heavy offense where he is largely tasked with running seam and underneath routes as a receiver. He can block in either scheme, but I think his ability to block in space and take on second level defenders would shine in a zone blocking scheme. There should be zero hesitation in inserting him into a man blocking scheme though.
Additional note - When being taught how to evaluate and scout NCAAF players, one of the biggest things that was stressed to me by a former NFL scout was let the team tell you their thoughts on a player through their usage. So does a team use a pass catcher or pass rusher in 2-minute or obvious passing situations, is a quarterback given more freedom, is a running back used in pass pro, etc. The reason this is relevant to this article is Washington was rarely used on third down and in obvious passing situations like two-minute drills. Now, I understand that Georgia had Brock Bowers, the best tight end in the country. But, football, especially at the college level is becoming a game of getting your five best skill players on the field in all situations, especially in a 2-minute drill. If Georgia truly, truly believed in Washington as a receiver, you’d have to think they would have consistently used him in those situations rather than him hardly seeing the field.