The Georgia Bulldogs have a better tight end room than most colleges have receiving rooms. And the behemoth of the group is Georgia TE Darnell Washington, a prospect who’s garnered more and more 2023 NFL Draft buzz with his scouting report over the past two seasons. What does Washington provide an offense, and what can he be at the next level?
Darnell Washington NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Tight End
- School: Georgia
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’7″, 270 pounds
Georgia’s tight end room is a “pick your poison” type of outfit. If you want the elite receiving threat who’s a mismatch against defensive backs with his size and athleticism, you take Brock Bowers. If you want the multiphase enforcer who can dominate defenders both at the catch point and at the point of attack, Washington is your guy.
Washington’s sheer size is what draws most eyes to him. Then he starts playing, and you can’t look away. Washington is a tenacious competitor even beyond his stature, and it’s what’s helped fuel his rise on the college football stage.
As a five-star recruit in the 2020 class, Washington was already 6’7″, 265 pounds. As hard as it is to believe, he’s only gotten bigger and better. He saw the field often as a rotational TE for the Bulldogs through 2020 and 2021 before putting up a respectable 26 catches for 417 yards and two scores in 2022.
Though Washington doesn’t have elite production as a receiving threat, his impact is clear every time you turn on Georgia’s tape. Washington is an absolute road-grader as a blocker, and though Georgia’s abundance of weapons prevents him from being a target funnel, he makes the most of the chances he receives.
Darnell Washington Scouting Report
Washington isn’t quite the universal TE prospect we’ve been accustomed to seeing in recent years, but his unique profile does provide projected value through the NFL lens. Here’s how.
At 6’7″, 270 pounds, Washington is a massive player with elite height, frame density, and length. His sheer frame size allows him to absorb and withstand contact as a pass catcher and outmatch opponents in all phases.
As expected, Washington’s size does come with a few drawbacks in the mobility department, but he still shows glimpses of above-average athleticism for his size. Washington flashes solid long-strider acceleration in space when he has room to open up, and he also displays good burst at times when redirecting upfield as a RAC threat.
The Georgia TE has enough speed to sneak up seams and provide a safety blanket with his size. He can reportedly run a 40-yard dash in the high 4.6s, and although he needs a runway to reach that point, he’s not a liability in space. Additionally, there are flashes of uncanny agility for a player of Washington’s size on tape. He can hurdle defenders in the open field and easily recollect his footing afterward.
While Washington’s physical traits are alluring, his most marketable trait as a receiver may be his instincts and how they complement his size.
Washington is able to gather passes mid-stride while tracking across the middle of the field, and he can carry his strides without interruption while corralling short passes. The Georgia TE can make quick body adjustments for throws that aren’t in his wheelhouse, and he quickly resets his feet for RAC after hauling in passes over the middle of the field.
The behemoth tight end has shown he can extend beyond his frame and use smooth body control in stride to contort for high throws. He can also make diving catches for low passes and cushion the ball while lunging. Washington’s length allows him to extend and reach where defenders cannot. But beyond that, the Georgia TE naturally high-points passes and has a great sense of timing.
Also complementing Washington’s receiving ability is his stifling hand strength, which he can use to snare high-difficulty throws while blanketed by defenders. Washington can haul in and secure throws amidst impending contact, and he has visibly soft hands in space.
While Washington can be more consistent with his technique, he’s shown he can guide passes in when getting RAC opportunities. And although Washington isn’t an incredibly natural separator, he still has the awareness to find soft spots in zones over the middle of the field.
Washington already outmatches defenders with his size, but he’s also exceedingly physical. The Georgia TE is a relentless competitor who’s able to use quick swims and swipes to beat jams off the line. He can easily pry past defenders in press coverage with his length and play strength. He actively uses his length to compound separation and wall off DBs while running upfield.
After the catch, Washington’s physicality is even more translatable. He’s a steamroller in space. Washington is extremely difficult to take down on first contact. He can easily shake off lighter defenders even when fully wrapped, and he can churn through arm tackles and regain his balance after withstanding attempts. He’ll drag smaller defenders upfield while churning his legs.
With his size and physicality, Washington always finishes forward as a runner and can pick up chunks of post-contact yardage. He’ll also proactively stiff arm after the catch to shove down attempted tacklers and stay on his feet.
Last, but certainly not least, Washington is a terrifying blocker. He’s incredibly strong and aggressive and has the strength and leg drive to redirect defenders out of running lanes and into the turf. The Georgia TE brings a mauler mentality and consistently finishes blocks. He shows urgency as a lead blocker moving downfield and can throw defenders into the turf with power and upper-body torque.
Even for his size, Washington can acquire leverage and surge into blocks with good pad level and stack blocks moving upfield. He brings elite power for a TE and generates overwhelming output without much strain. Washington also has an understanding of leverage and angles. He’s shown he can swivel around blocks while holding his anchor to maintain leverage and seal off defenders.
Washington is an asset as a run blocker, but he’s also very competent in protecting the passer. He squares up defenders in pass protection and has phenomenal grip strength when anchored. With his size and strength, he can absorb power exertions and stymy rushes.
Areas for Improvement
While Washington has elite size and should have very good testing numbers, his functional on-field athleticism is more of a question mark. The Georgia TE visibly lacks elite initial burst and long speed and won’t often generate chunk plays through small seams.
Without elite burst, Washington sometimes struggles to stay ahead of receivers as a lead blocker. And more often than not, he trudges through the open field and doesn’t pressure DBs with his acceleration. At his size, Washington will always be somewhat of a lumbering mover in space.
While Washington’s strides are long and cover lots of ground, he’s ultimately a slow-striding target and more of a linear athlete. He’s a fairly limited short-area mover with stiffness in his hips and struggles to vary his strides in open space. In a similar vein, Washington has a below-average change of direction. Routinely, he’s forced to gather himself with multiple steps and reset his base before diverting course.
As a receiving threat, while Washington is very instinctive and a towering mismatch, his hand technique can get better. Washington’s hands can be top-dominant at times, which can lead to drops. He has room to more consistently use the diamond technique to guide passes in. Similarly, Washington can be prone to clap-catching. He sometimes claps his hands together and squeezes the ball out of his grasp when he should guide and secure it in a more stable manner.
Stemming from his athletic makeup, Washington has a visible cap on his ceiling as an independent separator. The Georgia TE has marginal natural suddenness and foot speed at stems within his lumbering mold. He plays exceedingly tall as a route runner and isn’t often going to sink into breaks or generate displacement on releases. Washington is high-hipped at stems with average foot speed, and he struggles to manage his size at times.
Georgia didn’t ask Washington to have an expansive route tree, but his very limited route tree may also be a byproduct of his subpar route-running skill set. Washington often has to be schemed touches on drags, slants, shallow crossers, and wheel routes. And on more precise routes like curls, he still doesn’t show great suddenness or hip sink. His size and play strength often help him compensate for a lack of separation ability that invites contact.
Current Draft Projection for Georgia TE Darnell Washington
With his overwhelming build and physical skill set, Washington will undoubtedly earn Day 2 interest in the 2023 NFL Draft. He grades out in the mid-Day 2 range as a prospect, and his NFL Combine testing numbers should only reinforce that outcome. Having said that, Washington isn’t a slam-dunk TE prospect. There’s an obvious role in which he can thrive, but there are also pressing limitations on tape.
Although Washington has a dominating frame with elite length and mass, his on-field explosiveness is above-average at best, and far below the elite mark. He’s a slow-striding athlete who lacks great burst, and he doesn’t have much lateral movement freedom or fluidity in his hips. Washington’s linear, lumbering mold actively constrains his upside as a route runner and separator and limits the number of ways he can be used.
While Washington may test as an excellent athlete, his functional athleticism is more confined. For that reason, he’s not going to be an elite, all-encompassing receiving threat at the NFL level. That said, Washington’s unique size, strength, and physicality do open a clear path to success.
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As a receiver, Washington combines a dominating catch radius and wingspan with high-level catching instincts, body control, timing, box-out ability, and indisputable hand strength. And once in open space as a RAC threat, he’s a bulldozer who’s nearly impossible to stop with solo tackles.
Washington can churn through opponents with his leg drive, and that same size and physicality make him a hyper-elite blocker who essentially serves as an extra lineman.
With his limitations in the functional athleticism department, Washington may never be a true TE1. He doesn’t have the natural separation ability to be a target funnel, and that lowers his ceiling as a prospect. But at the very least, Washington can be a superb rotational asset as a red-zone threat and short-range outlet with seam capabilities.
Washington’s elite blocking ability will get him on the field early and often. And for teams that employ a heavy dose of 12 personnel and value multi-phase tight ends, Washington’s value is especially high. He has a projected niche as a receiver and game-changing ability as a blocker, and at his ceiling, he could become an above-average starter in the NFL.
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