Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft saw a number of well-regarded tight end prospects come off the board, including Michael Mayer and Sam LaPorta, who had drawn first-round buzz. But another tight end who'd become a regular Day 1 projection, Georgia's Darnell Washington, went much later than expected, sliding all the way to the Steelers near the .
Pittsburgh halted Washington's drop with the No. 93 overall pick, but only after seven other tight ends had already been taken. So why, exactly, did such a prominent name from a prominent program nearly fall all the way until Day 3 of the draft?
The primary culprit appears to be medical issues. A year after fellow Georgia product Nakobe Dean went from potential first-rounder to pick No. 93 in the third round due to injury concerns, Washington was "red-flagged" by multiple teams after battling a repeat foot injury in college, according to WalterFootball.com. Sports Illustrated, NFL Media and others added fuel to the fire Friday by suggesting teams do, in fact, have questions about Washington's health -- perhaps particularly his knee.
The supersized prospect (6-foot-7, 264) missed four games due to injury in the 2021 season, but returned to start six of 11 games for Georgia that year, when the Bulldogs won the national championship.
It's possible that Washington's slide also stemmed from his lack of pass-catching production at the college level. While he boasts unteachable size, drawing Marcedes Lewis comparisons for his potential as a dominant in-line blocker, Washington was not prolific with the ball in his hands, at least statistically, registering no more than 460 receiving yards in a season. In an increasingly speedy and pass-happy league, it shouldn't be all too surprising that a bigger, less explosive receiving option tumbled down the board.
In Pittsburgh, of course, Washington may have found an ideal NFL fit. The Steelers are built to win by leaning on an old-school, run-first attack, which could allow him to play a rotational blocking-centric role alongside starting TE Pat Freiermuth.