A continuing series of scouting reports for potential Cowboys draft picks.
Name: Darnell Washington
Weight: 264 pounds
Combine Results: 4.64 40-yard dash, 31” vertical, 10’2” broad, 4.08 short shuttle, 21 bench press reps
One of the more polarizing prospects in this draft is Georgia tight end Darnell Washington. Opinions have been pretty split on where his long-term outlook lies, as Washington didn’t see much usage in college, but has flashed traits that hint at potential dominance. He currently faces the best odds of being a second-round pick, though some believe he’s worthy of going in the first round.
Washington grew up in Las Vegas and was a multi-sport athlete, playing varsity basketball in addition to football. Washington played defensive end on top of tight end, but was primarily recruited to play tight end. As a five-star prospect and the 23rd best player in his class, Washington committed to the Georgia Bulldogs.
Washington arrived in a crowded tight end room, and it translated to very little usage for the Bulldogs offense. In all three of Washington’s seasons, at least 60% of his snaps came as a blocker, and he had a total of 27 targets in his first two seasons. Washington’s role expanded this past year, but still remained small, thus prompting a spirited debate over his projection to the next level.
Receiving Ability: There’s a lot of guesswork to be done here. Washington logged 45 catches over three years, which is less than the other top tight ends in this draft had just in 2022. Washington has rare size for the position, and he’s shown an ability to use it to make highpoint catches, but there’s just not enough volume here to sufficiently know how much of a pass catcher Washington can be.
Hands: Washington has a huge catch radius and is pretty reliable when securing the ball. He has just five drops in his three years at Georgia, with two of those in his freshman year. The question, though, is how those numbers will fare if he starts seeing 80 targets a year instead of the 43 he saw this past season.
Route Running: He is a very fluid athlete for his size, and that helps him win on his routes more often than not, but he’s not a refined route runner by any measure. Much of that has to do with his minimal exposure as a route runner. Washington just didn’t create separation at a consistent rate, but his size and frame (and lack of focus in the passing game) made up for that a lot. Generally speaking, that’s a red flag when evaluating route running and projecting a player to the next level.
Blocking: Washington really excels here. Few players, regardless of position, are as physically imposing as Washington. He plays with an offensive lineman mentality as a blocker. He carries a ton of power in his frame and uses it well. He struggles to get good leverage due to his size, but he’s got the other necessary traits as a blocker to overcome that.
Athleticism: He is an elite athlete, which is why so many people think he has a bright future. He ran away with the gold in nearly every drill at the combine, with a miserable vertical jump measurement seeming to be a clear anomaly. Washington posted the second best Relative Athletic Score of any tight end in this class, which also ranks ahead of Kyle Pitts.
Size: Wow. Washington is just gargantuan. It’s not a surprise he was a basketball player in high school with how big he is. He has rare size for any position, but especially tight end. That he did so well in the athletic drills at that height is even more impressive.
Intangibles: When you see a tight end with a basketball background that tests the way Washington did and measures in at 6’7”, you immediately expect a dominant pass catcher. Not the case with Washington, whose role in college was essentially a sixth offensive lineman who occasionally went out for routes. Why? That will be the question on every NFL team’s mind with Washington, and it’ll require a whole lot of projection to envision a different role for him in the NFL.