Why the Slide?: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia

Our “Why the Slide” series parallels and grew out our “Why Undrafted” series. The latter was created a number of years ago in response to your questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For both series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

When NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah came out with his early mock drafts in January of 2023, one of the surprising names in the first round was Georgia tight end Darnell Washington. Washington was mostly a blocking tight end for the Bulldogs while Brock Bowers served as a dynamic mismatch receiver at tight end. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Washington was considered a rare blocker with untapped ability as a receiver. Throughout the months leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, the common projections had Washington on the bubble betweens Round 1 and Round 2. Thus, it was surprising to many when Washington slid to late in the third round before getting selected.

While many media had Washington projected as a first-rounder, WalterFootball.com typically had him going in Round 2. Some team sources felt Washington was a solid blocker who could use his massive size to tie up defenders, but he was not overly strong and just blasting defenders out of their gaps. Hence in some ways, the media overhyped him as a player.

The biggest blows though that caused Washington to slide were other reasons. As WalterFootball.com reported just days before the draft, some teams had flunked Washington medically and dropped him off their boards. They said there were multiple medical issues that led to removal. On top of the medical, there were some character concerns with Washington as well.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ended Washington’s slide late in the third round, and they were a quality landing spot for him. In their run-oriented offense, Washington should take on a Y – blocking – tight end role quickly while Pat Freiermuth serves as the F – movement – receiving tight end. Washington should not have an issue beating out Zach Gentry for that blocking role. With the Steelers, Washington also could serve as a sneaky receiving option thanks to players like Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Allen Robinson command more coverage attention. While Washington slid lower than expected in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Steelers were a good landing spot for him to get his NFL career off to a good start.

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