It has been a busy week in the news cycle for the Dallas Cowboys. They made a surprise move by trading a fifth-round compensatory pick to acquire cornerback Stephon Gilmore and retained some of their key free agents. Then the team decided to part ways with running back Ezekiel Elliott. Now they have added wide reciever Brandin Cooks via trade. Big changes indeed. However, as the Cowboys’ world turns, one move, or lack thereof, has gone under the radar.
Tight end Dalton Schultz has yet to sign with a new team (Editor’s Note: Schultz signed with the Houston Texans after this was originally written) and his market has been very quiet. That’s not to say that a return to Dallas seems likely. Schultz played last season on the franchise tag and surely isn’t looking to take less than his 10.9M salary from 2022 and Dallas doesn’t look willing to oblige him. As some mock drafts have cited the Cowboys to select Utah tight end, Dalton Kincaid, there’s another tight end that is believed to be worthy of a first-round pick.
Darnell Washington from the University of Georgia has started to generate a buzz in draft circles. After he impressed at the combine with his physical traits, and solid forty-yard dash time, (4.64) Washington is a name the team could consider if they decide to take a tight end with their 26th pick in April’s draft. After watching Washington’s film, you can see why some teams and fans would be enamored with him.
Starting with the positives, Washington plays with every bit of his 6’7”, 264-lb frame when it comes to the blocking aspect of his game. His massive size allows him to swarm defenders and engulf them with his size. Georgia ran a lot of plays with Washington’s blocking as the focal point. Washington is a very good tight end when blocking as the in-line Y.
When working in tandem in a double team, he’s got a very sense of when to get off his double-team block and get to the next-level defender.
Washington is also consistent in sealing off the edge in counter plays to give the guard time to get out in front of the play to block.
He’s also adept at blocking in space. Georgia often lined him flexed in the slot to assist with their screens and let Washington block on the perimeter. In short, he plays almost like a portable offensive lineman, he’s a huge body on the outside that gave the Georgia weapons a lot of room to operate with.
As for the concerns with Washington’s game, he’s not particularly light on his feet as a pass catcher. He looks like a tank but unfortunately moves like one too. It takes Washington some time to build momentum to his second gear and because of this, he doesn’t have the swiftest footwork coming out of his breaks. Despite having 11-inch hands, there are times when he bobbles the ball before securing the catch.
As mentioned before, he’s an exceptional blocker but there are things to improve. When blocking on the move, he tends to throw his shoulder into the defender instead of coming at them squared up, and tends to lunge block in space instead of bringing his feet with him. This sometimes causes him to miss his target zone and deliver a glancing blow versus a punishing block.
He also needs to work on keeping his hands within the framework of the defender to avoid penalties at the NFL level. Finally, because of that build to momentum, he can miss his man to block in the hole and allow the defender quick penetration in the face of the running back.
Is Washington a player that has a high upside and needs a chance to flourish with more opportunities in the passing game to blossom into a certified weapon? Or is Washington a physical marvel but not much else from a productivity standpoint that will be wildly inconsistent as a receiving option?
After watching his play on film, it’s probably more in the middle of both of those scenarios. When looking for a comparison to Washington, an appropriate comparison was former Georgia tight end Leonard Pope (third round pick in 2009 to Arizona) who has almost the same stature. Pope was mostly a blocking tight end that had some red zone potential in his career but aside from that, wasn’t a game-changer in the passing attack.
If Dallas was to take Washington in the first round, he would immediately improve your run blocking on the perimeter and would be a great blocker to go along with a runner like Tony Pollard. It all depends on how comfortable the Cowboys would be with that type of investment for a tight end who isn’t all that polished as a pass catcher. If they insist on taking tight end with that pick, they should go for the aforementioned Dalton Kincaid instead.