Regardless of position, Darnell Washington may be one of the greatest athletes in the 2023 NFL draft class. He has the size of an offensive lineman with the movement and speed of a wide receiver. Washington was part of the best tight end room in college at the University of Georgia. He played beside 2024 blue-chip prospect Brock Bowers. The narrative around Washington is that he is a great blocker and will help his NFL team a ton. However, what does that mean for fantasy scoring for our dynasty teams? Let’s take a look at his profile and answer that question.
- College: Georgia
- Height: 6’7″
- Weight: 264 lbs
- Hand Size: 11″
- Age: 21
- Year: Junior
- Draft Projection: Second Round
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.64s
High School & Personal Life
Washington is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and played for Desert Pines High School. At Desert Pines, he was a varsity athlete in both basketball and football. Multi-sport athletes at the tight end position are a huge plus that NFL scouts look at. He was a five-star recruit, according to 247Sports, and was the top high school prospect in the state of Nevada. Washington received 35 offers to play college football, including multiple SEC schools. He ultimately decided to attend the University of Georgia and enrolled on June 4th, 2020.
Before diving into Washington’s college career, we must admit he is very light on receiving production. Through three years, he only has 45 receptions for 774 yards. Some tight ends in this class have surpassed those numbers in their final season alone. However, context is everything when looking at his college production. From 2020 to 2022, when Washington was at Georgia, only one pass catcher broke 60 receptions in a single season. That was Brock Bowers this past season, who had 63 receptions. In the past few years, the Bulldogs’ offense was extremely low volume and spread the ball around.
The bread and butter of Washington’s game in college were blocking. He has over 700 snaps on the field in run-blocking situations for three years. There are not a lot of stats that quantify how good of a blocker he was, but we can use data from PFF. He graded as a 72+ run blocker every year in college, and PFF would assign that grade to a starting caliber blocker. Washington received an 81.3 in 2022, which was good enough for the top ten at the position in run blocking.
Washington’s athleticism is off the charts, and according to RAS (Relative Athletic Score), he falls in the top fifteen all-time for the tight-end position. Despite weighing heavier than most of this tight-end class, Washington’s testing numbers fell into the top ten for every testing category.
If you turned on Washington’s game tape without knowing what position he plays, you would assume he is one of the top offensive line prospects in this draft class. He has a natural talent for blocking and knows how to use his frame and size to set the tone when setting a block. Washington was utilized in both passing and run-blocking situations and finished top ten in the country at run-blocking, according to PFF.
When discussing frames, there is not much to knock on a prospect who stands at 6’7″ and weighs in at 264 pounds. Washington outweighs a few offensive tackle prospects in this draft class. His 6’7″ height also leaves him towering over most other players on the field. He looked like a man amongst boys playing in the SEC the past few seasons, which isn’t something you say lightly with the amount of talent coming out of the SEC every year.
Many of Washington’s touchdowns came in the red zone, where he can use his frame to be a difference-maker for his offense. Most defenses will assume Washington is a blocker in this part of the field. This leaves the perfect opportunity for him to sneak into a hole in the back of the endzone. This clip above is one you can find multiple times throughout his career.
Despite his enormous stature, Washington has soft hands and can haul in most passes. He uses those 34 ⅜ “arms to extend to the ball and grab it before smaller defenders can make a play. His 11” hands also come in as a vital tool as a pass-catcher. He often takes hits immediately after he makes a catch and rarely drops the pass.
Areas To Improve
Washington’s route tree at Georgia was extremely limited. It is even hard to call what he ran a “route tree.” Most receptions on tape are similar to the one in this clip, where he leaks out of the backfield after convincing the defense that he is a blocker. His other preferred route would be a seam where he can be seen gaining yardage in chunks of twenty by out-muscling defenders.
Washington won’t be mistaken for a ballerina anytime soon. His hips aren’t fluid, and he lacks the lateral agility that many routes require from an NFL athlete. Most of his receiving work came on a combination of seam routes and leaking out of the backfield after the quarterback finishes selling the handoff to the defense. His route tree will remain limited unless he improves in this area of his game.
Lack of Production
As stated at the beginning of this profile, Washington has very limited production in the receiving game. Several factors can cause this; a Georgia offense that likes to spread the ball, sharing the field with a generational tight end talent in Bowers, or the fact that Washington was such a dominant blocker. No matter how you put it, Washington is severely limited in his experience as a pass catcher. He has shown on tape that he can be an effective pass catcher; he just wasn’t asked to do it a ton at Georgia.
Projected Draft Capital & Role
According to NFL Mock Draft Database, Washington is projected to land anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round. Anywhere in this range is excellent draft capital for a tight end and a good signal that he will see the field early as a rookie. The real question for fantasy football purposes is what role his NFL team envisions for him.
Many in the NFL scouting community lament that Washington could be a “sixth offensive lineman” for his NFL team. And with his frame, that evaluation may not be far off. However, that would spell disaster for his value as a fantasy football asset. He has shown that he has strong enough hands to be deployed as a pass catcher. Our only hope is that his NFL team will see that trait and utilize him as a vital part of their offense.
This 2023 tight end class is shaping into one of the better classes we have seen in the past decade. At least three players are being mocked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, with a handful of others will be selected late day two or early day three. Of all these players, Washington is easily the best athlete, but will he be the best for your dynasty fantasy football team?
I currently have Washington as my TE4 in this class, but I could not fault anyone who had him higher. For me, there is a clear big four with him, Michael Mayer, Dalton Kincaid, and Luke Musgrave, in whichever order you wish. Washington falls into the fourth spot for me due to the concerns that he will be asked to block far more than he will be asked to catch passes. And unfortunately for us, blocking doesn’t produce any fantasy football points.
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I hope you enjoyed this rookie profile. Be sure to check back often, as I will cover all fantasy-relevant positions. For more content like this, follow me on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!