Darnell Washington has to be the ideal tight end prospect for Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels. The Georgia product does the one thing McDaniels wants out of his tight ends extremally well: Blocking.
So well, that there’s draft projections about Washington potentially become a standout offensive tackle rather than tight end at the next level.
But don’t pigeon hole Washington.
Relegating the 6-foot-7, 264-pound Las Vegas native to a particular role is unwise. He offers so much more as a pass catcher, too. However, in terms of inline blocking, there isn’t a tight end as dominant. Which has to pique McDaniels’ and the Raiders’ interest.
Tale of the Tape: Darnell Washington
- School: Georgia
- Position: Tight end
- Height: 6-foot-7
- Weight: 264 pounds
- 2022 Stats: 28 catches, 454 yards, 2 touchdowns
- Career Stats: 45 catches, 774 yards, 3 touchdowns
Primarily used as a blocking tight end, Washington’s collegiate production as a pass catcher isn’t wholly impressive when compared to his contemporaries across the landscape. What he lacks in receptions and receiving yards, Washington more than makes up for when asked to block.
Darnell Washington vs other TEs on the sled— Footballism (@FootbaIIism) March 6, 2023
With his size, length, and weight, Washington produces power to render defenders ineffective in the run game. He approaches that aspect of the game like a mean-streak tackle who wipes out the opposition. His hands and wing span allows him to engulf defenders at the point of attack and displace them with relative ease. When asked to chip before running a route, he knocks defenders off their trajectory severely altering their intended path.
Washington’s pass blocking chops are equally impressive as he walls off blitzing linebackers. His long arms allow him to take on bigger edge rushers with bad intentions as he holds up well and can anchor like a tackle.
But here’s the kicker to all that: Washington is still raw and can get sloppy with his technique. Refining his mechanics, footwork and working building himself up physically in an NFL strength program makes Washington an even more imposing presence as an inline blocking tight end.
Which makes the pro comparison’s to Marcedes Lewis apt. Like the 6-foot-6, 267-pound Lewis has done since he entered the league as an imposing 2006 first-round pick (28th overall) blocking tight end, Washington can come in and immediately be a plug-and-play inline blocker while his receiving game develops at the pro level.
Washington looks stiff and not as natural when running his routes as a pass catcher.
Despite his massive size, separation came at a premium at times during his stint at Georgia. And he wasn’t used as often in the passing attack by the Bulldogs during his four-year career. Like Lewis, Washington has the box-out capability and size to make for a contested catch opportunist. Despite his aggressive nature as as drive blocker, Washington displays soft and reliable hands to snare in passes and has the mismatch nightmare prowess due to his height and leaping ability.
Georgia TE Darnell Washington’s unique skill and physical sets make him standout among a great TE Class at the draft combine. pic.twitter.com/LjRzsTBoR7— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) March 3, 2023
The eye-opening combine numbers Washington posted only cement his status as a freakish athlete that has extremely high upside.
He ran a solid 4.64 40-yard dash at his size and an even more impressive 4.08 20-yard shuffle. To put that into context, the much smaller and similarly freakishly athletic Vernon Davis clocked in a 4.17 20-yard shuffle. The speed speaks well to Washington’s ability to be a freight train type who generates power as he chugs along. He displayed instances of being a power runner for yards after the catch (YAC) with the ball in his hands.
For a Raiders offense that wants to set the tone with a domineering run game led by Josh Jacobs, Washington appears to be a must-have type prospect at the tight end position. He can come in, immediately become the top blocker at the position group while refining his mechanics and pass catching ability in Year 1.
Projection wise, Washington is seen as a second-round prospect with fringe first-round considerations. Las Vegas’ No. 38 overall pick may be the spot for Washington — if he doesn’t go earlier.