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Dynasty Outlook

March 28

Darnell Washington is our TE2 for rookie drafts and checks in as TE8 in our overall dynasty ranks. He is a remarkable athlete, evidenced by his 4.64 40-yard dash time at 264 pounds at the Combine. Additionally, he posted the third-fastest short shuttle of all players at the Combine. This kind of athleticism lends itself to some potentially massive upside, although it needs to be projected since he was not much of a collegiate producer. Washington was also a three-year player, which has traditionally been a huge positive at the position. While there is certainly a low floor here — one of the scouts suggested he could wind up a tackle at some point — the upside is what fantasy gamers should be shooting for at a position with so few difference-makers.

 

Profile Summary

Washington is a massive human being, often being described as a “sixth lineman” by scouts and commentators. He is also a supreme athlete. These two traits have a great chance to make him a first-round pick come the NFL Draft. Washington has shown some ability to play in the slot, and he saw a large uptick in production in his final season. The production overall was lacking, but he had to play with an elite prospect while at Georgia. Athletically, he may remind people of Jelani Woods, but Washington comes in younger, he’s a better blocker, and he has more experience against top competition.

 

Vitals

Age (as of 12/31/22) — 21.4

Experience — 3 years

 

 

 

By the Numbers

 

Assessing Washington through production is a bit of a difficult task given how Georgia ran their offense, and the competition he had to face. When Washington first got on campus, he had to play behind senior Tre’ McKitty, who went on to be a third-round pick in 2021. In the last two seasons, he had to play with Brock Bowers, who is a year younger than Washington but is a Kyle Pitts-type of extremely rare producer and prospect.

As a result, we did not see much from Washington as a receiver, though he improved tremendously in his final season, compiling 28 catches for 454 yards. Washington averaged 17.2 yards per reception for his career, which is fifth highest of the 383 TEs in our database. Though he is often referred to as a “sixth lineman”, Washington did manage to play 28.2% of his pass snaps in the slot. While he is massive in size, Washington’s 4.64 40-yard dash at the Combine was the sixth fastest at the TE position.

 

What the Scouts are Saying

Lance Zierlein thinks Washington’s blocking upside is so good, he may end up as a tackle:

In-line tight end with rare size and power at the point of attack to help soften defensive edges up front. Despite sloppy overall technique, Washington can be effective at moving defenders when he’s centered on his block. He must improve his footwork and hand usage, as NFL defenders will slip away from his clutches more easily if he’s unsound. He plods into his routes but catches with above-average focus and can be a handful to bring down. Washington could become a dominant run blocker with better technique, which makes me wonder if a team might give him a look at offensive tackle at some point in his career.

 

Daniel Jeremiah notes that Washington is a rare prospect physically:

A traditional in-line tight end, Washington is a massive physical specimen with outstanding play strength and toughness. He can power through press coverage with upper-body strength. He uses his long stride to build speed down the seam and provides an enormous target for his QB. He is a little clunky getting out of breaks, which limits his separation. However, it doesn’t really matter because he can use his big body to shield off defenders. He has some “wow” contested catches where opponents just bounce off his frame. After the catch, he is shockingly fast and nimble (see: the hurdle vs. Oregon). He is a dominant run blocker, as he latches onto and displaces defensive ends with ease. Overall, Washington has tremendous value because he functions as a sixth offensive lineman in the run game and he’s a moving billboard in the passing game.

 

Dane Brugler sees receiving upside in Washington:

Carrying the leanest 280 pounds you will see on a football field, Darnell Washington is a weapon as a blocker and offers untapped potential as a pass catcher. He is still maturing in several areas, but he gives his quarterback a massive target and will show his value as a run blocker immediately.

 

Draft Projection

Washington currently has an expected draft position of 40.9 on Grinding the Mocks, which sources mock drafts around the interwebs. Mock Draft Database is a similar service that has Washington 33rd overall. He did not appear in Jeremiah’s most recent mock, but he went 24th in Brugler’s. Washington seems to have a fairly wide range of outcomes from the mid-first to mid-second rounds.

 

Comparable Players

I use Principal Component Analysis to evaluate prospects. In simplest terms, this kind of analysis looks at relevant data points to find the closest comparable players in past drafts. I prefer this to a model output — which yields only a single result — as it can display the possible range of outcomes for a prospect.

Note that the analysis itself isn’t telling us how good a player is; it is simply returning the most similar players. It is then up to us to layer in context and past results to see how good we think this player may be.

 

 

Similar to Michael Mayer, we don’t get any comps that are at least 80% similar for Washington — whose age, expected draft position, and size are all relative outliers. There are only a couple of positive comps here: Austin Hooper and Dawson Knox, who have managed to put forth productive TE seasons. Cole Kmet and Jeremy Ruckert are the prospects that still provide some promise.

Of course, the comps system does not know Washington played against such tough competition while at Georgia. It is fair to be more optimistic than this process presents for him.

 

Further Research