After trading Darren Waller, the Las Vegas Raiders have a need at tight end and will likely turn to the early stages of the NFL Draft to find Waller’s replacement. One of the Raiders' top options will be Georgia tight end, Darnell Washington.
Washington is a massive human being, measuring in at just under 6’7” and tipping the scales at 264 pounds at the NFL Combine. That helped him earn the highest run-blocking grade among SEC tight ends (81.3) from Pro Football Focus while also not allowing a single pressure in pass protection on 67 opportunities during his three years in Athens.
But the Bulldog is more than just size, he can move too, clocking a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and 4.08 short shuttle times in Indianapolis. He finished last season with 454 receiving yards which were the second-most at the position in the conference, only trailing his teammate, Brock Bowers.
But how exactly could the Las Vegas native make an impact for the Silver and Black? Let’s dive into the tape!
Darnell Washington’s ability to block in space is impressive pic.twitter.com/ks6fASmD99— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 3, 2023
One area of Washington’s game that is rare for his size is his ability to block in space. Here, Georiga puts him on the trips side of the formation but off the line of scrimmage and they run a swing screen to the running back that is essentially like a pin-and-pull run concept, which is a staple in Josh McDaniels’ offense.
The two wide receivers crack block Oregon’s second-level defenders while Washington pulls around them to lead block for the running back. His movement skills allow him to beat the safety to the spot at about the 35-yard line, and he does an excellent job of breaking down and making the safety come to him.
A lot of times, blockers will get over-aggressive in space and end up whiffing on the more athletic defensive back. However, the Bulldog stays under control and it’s pretty much game over at the point of contact with the size mismatch as the defensive back ends up on the ground.
No matter how many times I watch this clip, I still can’t get over seeing a 270lb dude hurdle someone. Props to Darnell Washington pic.twitter.com/thEcpswbQB— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 3, 2023
You’ve probably seen this clip before because it went viral during the season seeing as 260- to 270-pound dudes aren’t supposed to be able to hurdle people like this.
But before that, Washington takes a simple flat route and has the contact balance to fight through the first tackler and pick up the first down. Then comes the hurdle which, again, is unique for someone of this size, and he ends up picking up roughly 20 yards after initial contact.
That’s the type of weapon the Georgia product is, he can turn short routes into first downs and explosive plays with his size and athletic ability.
Teach tape outside zone blocking by Darnell Washington pic.twitter.com/H7zLRhhs0K— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 3, 2023
In this clip, the Bulldogs are going to run an outside zone toss behind the double-tight end side of the formation. That means Washington is responsible for reach-blocking the linebacker who is lined up head-up on him.
He does a great job getting off the ball and working laterally to make sure he gets his helmet on the defender’s outside shoulder. At the point of contact, his strength takes over as he’s able to turn the defender’s shoulders. Washington caps it off by flipping his hips to effectively seal the linebacker and give the running back an outside rushing lane.
You can’t ask for much more than this as it’s textbook outside-zone blocking.
When people say Darnell Washington is like having a 6th offensive lineman in the running game, blocks like this are what they mean pic.twitter.com/4FhiWjVdTi— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 3, 2023
This next play is second and two, and Georgia runs counter to the strong side with read-option action in the backfield for a little wrinkle. That puts Washington on a down block against the defensive lineman that is playing inside shade of him.
Take a look at his pad level at the point of contact. Despite being 6’7”, he gets his helmet under the defensive lineman’s to get a leverage advantage. Washington also does a great job of keeping his hands inside to gain control of the block and keeps his feet moving through contact.
From there, his strength takes over and the end gets washed inside all the way down to the center. You’re not going to see many tight ends be able to physically dominate a defensive lineman like this.
Love how Darnell Washington puts his head down and uses his size to move the chains pic.twitter.com/UX9aW7fFIu— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 3, 2023
This next clip isn’t sexy and won’t stand out on the stat sheet, but it’s another good example of how Washington can move the chains.
It’s second and 10 and Stenson Bennett IV throws a short, five-yard pass that should just set up a third and manageable situation. However, Washington does a great job of pivoting to get upfield and putting his head down after the catch. Combining his size with momentum coming downhill makes him a load for defensive backs to take down, allowing him to turn a five-yard pass into a first down and nearly a 15-yard gain.
Darnell Washington uses his upper body strength to pin the DE inside on this pin & pull concept pic.twitter.com/pKL2U61OM9— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 3, 2023
This is a traditional pin-and-pull concept which, again, is a staple for McDaniels.
Here, Washington will be an in-line blocker and is responsible for pinning the defensive end inside. He maintains a wide base post-snap which allows him to absorb contact and recover from getting out-leveraged at the point of attack.
Also, take a look at how his right hand is inside the end’s left hand. That combined with his upper body strength allows him to gain control of the block. From there, he finishes by flipping his hips and using his strength to wash the defensive lineman inside and help create an outside rushing lane for the running back.
Even in some of the positive clips above, Washington’s heavy feet stood out a bit. He takes a while to get going off the line of scrimmage and isn’t someone who can stretch the seem like Waller can. The Georgia product’s impressive 10-yard split and 40-yard dash times were surprising to me as neither really showed up on tape.
Washington also lacks explosion coming out of his cuts. Often times defenders will “run the route for him” and be able to stay in phase when he runs sharp-breaking routes, even in the short areas of the field. He’s pretty reliant on using his size and strength to create separation.
As a run blocker, there’s a lot to like about the Bulldog’s game but if there’s one more “nitpicky” flaw to his blocking, it’s that he doesn’t handle stunts well. When the defensive lineman shifts gaps post-snap, he struggles to anticipate and react to the movement, often resulting in him getting beat across his face.
All of this being said, Washington’s physical profile is similar to Rob Gronkowski’s as highlighted by the comparison seen below from RAS.com. Gronk, obviously, had quite a bit of success playing for McDaniels, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Raiders use the 38th overall pick on Washington as he’d be a welcomed sight in Las Vegas’ offense.
However, there is a question of if he’ll be there as he’s been getting some first-round love in a few recent mock drafts...