Born in Las Vegas, Nevada, Darnell Washington attended Desert Pines High School as a multisport athlete competing in football, basketball and track. On the football field, Washington not only played tight end, but also played defensive end and won the Richard Nelson Courage Award in his senior year, which is given to athletes who overcome adversities, voted for by the Review-Journal.
Washington left Desert Pines as a 5-star recruit and he was the #23 overall recruit in his class from 247Sports. At the time of recruiting Darnell Washington was already 6’7 and 260 lbs and he had his pick of offers, getting 35 in total, including Alabama, Tennessee and Florida but decided to commit to Georgia.
At Georgia, in his freshman year, Washington would go on to start 7 games having 7 catches for 166 yards. Then at the start of his sophomore season, Washington carried a foot fracture into the season for which he had to undergo surgery. It saw him miss out on the opening 4 games of the 2021 season. That season he went on to score his first touchdown in the SEC Championship game against Alabama and was part of the National Championship Winning team.
In his junior year, Washington continued to develop. He has gone from being used as a predominantly blocking tight end to a tight end who can do it all. Increasing his pass-catching numbers and putting himself on the national radar.
It has seen Washington’s draft stock increase dramatically and it is no surprise that he is now being spoken about as one of the best tight ends available in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Watch the video below which showcases Darnell Washington’s diverse skill set and insane size, strength profile.
The best word to describe Washington is unique. You will hear it time and time again. He is a highly distinctive, special and rare, one-of-a-kind specimen.
What underpins everything Darnell Washington does is his size at 6’7” and 270 lbs he is an anomaly. It gives him unusual abilities and that uniqueness makes him such a compelling prospect. Players just are not built like Washington who is an absolute beast on the field. With strength, physicality and toughness, he offers the ability to do everything for an NFL team
One of Washington’s traits that flies under the radar is his athleticism. Because of his size, he won’t be talked about as a player with huge athletic upside. His size means he won’t have blazing speed like a 5’10” receiver. But, he offers more than expected for his size. It is reported he can run a 4.6 40-yard dash which is mightily impressive for his size. He simply does things that he shouldn’t be able to do at his size profile, offering incredible agility for his size where he can jump and hurdle over would-be tacklers.
Before the 2022 season, Washington was rarely used as a receiving threat. But, it is an area in which he has grown into and expanded his capability.
Returning to his size, Washington of course has a huge catch radius. He can literally just reach out over defenders to collect the ball. It also means quarterbacks can place the ball in places where only Washington can catch the ball as he towers over the opposition. He is a huge target to be aimed at and Washington makes the most of it. His height advantage and strength profile makes him a mismatch in all areas which can be exploited. It makes Washington an exceptional red zone threat where he can go up and highpoint the football.
Washington is a nice option as a security blanket option for quarterbacks, especially when running underneath and over the middle. His improvement as a pass catcher means he can catch through traffic and has exceptional instincts. Washington has a knack for finding open space to offer himself as a willing receiver, setting himself up for extra yardage.
Yards after the catch is now a key skill at the tight end position and Washington offers it. His size, strength and athleticism mean he can run over tacklers, escaping contact and picking up vital extra yards. He offers the ability to move the chain on underneath passes, but, also big-play ability as he fights contact to find space up the seams.
Where Darnell Washington really dominates is as a blocker. As a blocker, he is assertive, overbearing and vigorous. This applies specifically in the run game where he can use his power and strength profile to overwhelm his man. Washington can also be used as a lead blocker because of his athleticism where he is physical and mauls his opponent.
Washington is also an awesome inline blocker and again can prove a mismatch. He has the strength, balance and technique to sustain blocks and his length gives him extremely good leverage. You can almost treat Washington as an extra offensive lineman when needed, giving him the diverse skill set ad abilities which can see him stay on the field. He will keep defences guessing and his reliable but dominant play style will transition extremely well to the NFL.
As mentioned previously Darnell Washington has improved dramatically as a pass catcher in 2022. Prior to his junior year, he wasn’t getting many targets at all. Partly that is down to the Georgia system which is run heavy but does utilise its tight end rotation. Washington had flashed the potential as a receiver, he has now shown it in 2022.
The lack of prior receiving reps means that Washington doesn’t have a diverse route tree. But, that isn’t always a worry for tight ends. The NFL has recently favoured athletic ability and potential at the tight end position when it comes to draft value and placement.
While Washington’s size is one of his biggest strengths and is the base for him to succeed from, it does of course hamper him in certain areas. His size means he doesn’t offer great flexibility or body contortion, especially when in routes or catching. He won’t offer the receiving thereat of TE/WR versatility of a player such as Kyle Pitts. His size simply won’t allow him to do it, so it should not be expected. Tight End is a position where there is no set prototype, you can succeed at different levels.
His size also means that his route running can look a bit clumsy, he isn’t a smooth runner and he often makes multiple movements to change direction.
Darnell Washington has developed into one of the top tight ends eligible for the 2023 NFL Draft and will gather early-round attention because of this.
A rare, unique player with his size will always command attention. His diverse skillset and high-level play has only increased that interest.
His outstanding blocking and now secure receiving blocking ability makes him one of the premier tight ends in this class. He is monstrous on the field and that beastly play should see him selected in the early round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
How good of a prospect is Darnell Washington? Let us know over on Twitter @NinetynineYards
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Feature Image Credit: DawgNation
Video Credit: Prospects on YouTube