ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his 2.0 version of the 2023 NFL mock draft as the NFL Scouting Combine will be getting underway on Thursday in Indianapolis. The New Orleans Saints currently hold the 29th overall pick in this year’s draft courtesy of the Sean Payton trade to Denver. New Orleans will be eager to add another piece to the puzzle as the team tries to get back to the playoffs after missing out on the last two years. In Kiper’s 2.0 mock draft, he has the Saints going with tight end Darnell Washington out of Georgia.
Darnell Washington Would Fill A Huge Hole:
New Orleans has many holes to fill on their current roster and tight end is one of them especially if they don’t retain Juwan Johnson. Johnson is set to become a free agent once the new league year begins on March 15th, but the depth after him isn’t what the Saints are looking for. Outside of Johnson, the Saints tight end depth chart consists of Adam Trautman, Taysom Hill and Lucas Krull.
Darnell Washington is a FREAK 😳
The Georgia TE is listed as 6’7”, 270 lbs and is still able to move like this.
One of the biggest TE prospects the NFL Draft has seen. pic.twitter.com/VFuZH3HXfS
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) February 20, 2023
Kiper emphasizes in his latest mock draft how Washington would be able to fill a hole in a Saints offense that struggled throughout the 2022 season:
“I could see arguments for defensive line, cornerback or safety, but they also have a huge hole at tight end. Juwan Johnson was fine last season–42 catches, seven touchdowns–but they could upgrade with Washington, who is one of the most physically gifted and talented tight ends I’ve scouted. People who are 6-foot-7, 250 pounds are not supposed to move fluidly as he does.
The question is production: Washington had 45 catches and three touchdowns in three season for the Bulldogs, and Brock Bowers, a top 2024 prospect, put up much more impressive numbers. I think a team will bet on Washington’s talent in the top 40 picks, but you do wonder why he wasn’t used more for the back-to-back national champs. New Orleans likely will have a new starting quarterback, so let’s get that passer some help.”
Washington was a matchup nightmare during his time at Georgia. He would step onto the scene with the Bulldogs prior to the 2020 season. During his freshman campaign in 2020, Washington would start in seven games at the tight end spot. He finished the season with seven catches for 166 yards. An injury would keep him sidelined for the first four games of his sophomore season in 2021, but he was still able to contribute on offense.
The Las Vegas native finished the season with 10 catches and 154 yards. His best season would come in 2022 where Washington started in 11 games during the season. Washington hauled in 25 catches for 403 yards and a touchdown. He would reach career-high of receptions (5) against Mississippi State and receiving yards (78) against Vanderbilt in 2022.
Darnell Washington Scouting Report:
Hear from Pro Football Focus (PFF) on how his size makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and how he is able to withstand contact as a pass catcher:
“Washington isn’t quite the universal TE prospect we’ve been accustomed to seeing in recent years, but his unique profile does provide projected value through the NFL lens.
Washington is a massive player with elite height, frame density and length. His sheer size allows him to absorb and withstand contact as a pass catcher and outmatch opponents in all phases.
As expected, Washington’s size does come with a few drawbacks in the mobility department, but he still shows glimpses of above-average athleticism for his size. Washington flashes solid long-strider acceleration in space when he has the room to open up, and he also displays good burst at times when redirecting upfield as a RAC threat.”
Most people are psyched to see Anthony Richardson in the combine…
Me personally, I’m looking forward to 6’7 270 Darnell Washington pic.twitter.com/XcHc07GJd4
— Adam Kahle 🥬 (@adamkahle) February 28, 2023
Washington brings upside as a pass catcher and he is tough to bring down with his size. A red zone target is exactly what the Saints need even if they don’t bring back Johnson or not to the tight end room. Johnson has been able to show sparks in the Saints offense and if you could add another explosive tight end to the mix it’s a no-brainer for New Orleans to add another weapon to their offensive plans.
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