Darnell Washington: A perfect fit for Miami Dolphins or overrated?
By Brian Miller
Darnell Washington is big, strong, and plays a position that the Miami Dolphins need to fill in the draft but is the real deal or overrated?
Washington is a hard-to-miss tight end. He stands 6’7″ tall and even next to some of the bigger players in the NFL, he dwarfs them. Match him with a shorter CB or force linebacker coverage and Washington won’t have to jump too high to keep them off.
In 2022, Washington had his best season with the Georgia Bulldogs catching 28 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns. In his two previous seasons, he caught a combined 17 passes for less than 400 yards and one touchdown.
Washington also ran a 4.6 forty time according to NFLDraftBuzz.com also gave a QBR of 111.2 for QBs targeting him. He has above-average blocking skills and decent enough hands but is he the whole package?
Two drafts ago Kyle Pitts was the can’t-mill prospect and became one of the highest-drafted tight ends in NFL history. Needless to say, he hasn’t posted a monster season just yet and he is proving that the transition from college to the NFL isn’t an easy one.
What should fans expect from Washington? He isn’t graded out as a sure-fire first-round prospect and many mock draft experts, if there is such a thing, have Washington slotted as a mid-second rounder to early 3rd at worst.
For Miami Dolphins fans, this puts him potentially available at 51 in round two, and naturally, fans want to know if this is a legit prospect or a must-have for the Dolphins’ offense.
That is hard to answer. Despite the fact that he can block and uses his almost 84″ wingspan well to keep defenders away from the running lane, he doesn’t run crisp routes and he isn’t able to turn as quickly as NFL tight ends may need to do.
Miami fans didn’t like the lumbering gait of Mike Gesicki and if it is possible, Washington’s is worse.
If there is a part of his game that Miami desperately needs, however, it is his ability to block. Some have likened him to an extra tackle which is exactly what the Dolphins could use. NFLDraftBuzz.com says this about his blocking ability.
"Washington is a huge tight end standing 6-7 and weighing in at 270lbs – who has the power and drive-blocking ability of a tackle.As a blocker Washington is elite, he stands out as elite as a run blocker and you could easily mistake him for a seasoned pulling guard.As a pass blocker he is outstanding and easily handles blitzing LBs on the edge. In the 72 instances when he was used strictly in pass protection he didn’t give up a single pressure."
Washington’s bigger issues are all within the passing game. While he has good enough hands to play in the NFL, his running ability lacks quality and speed. In other words, he has no speed and while he posted a 4.6 forty, he won’t be nearly as fast in the NFL.
Without having the speed, Washington is going to have to rely on his height and if say Tua Tagovailoa can take advantage of that, Washington can do damage after the catch but only because he is physical at the point of contact.
Because of his lack of speed and route-running skills, Washington is going to be more of a short-yardage receiver. In Miami, that might not matter as much because they really need their TE to be able to block, which Washington excels at.
To answer the question about being overrated, that depends on who he ends up with and how they wish to use him. In Miami, he won’t be asked to do much more than Mike Gesicki was last year in the passing game but he will be used quite a bit in the run game as a blocker or held back to pass protect. In that area, he won’t be overrated.
If Washington is available at 51, he absolutely should be considered a selection for the Dolphins.