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Darnell Washington

New Steeler TE a downfield threat

It was a great draft for tight ends, with nine selected in the first three rounds for the first time ever. The Steelers took Georgia's Darnell Washington in the third, and while a different roster would have been nice, there's some exciting potential anyway.

Washington is huge (6-7, 264) but it's fair to say he moves really well for his size (or any size). He had the 3rd-best 20-yard shuttle time of anyone at the combine, particularly impressive at a size that doesn't seem to lend itself to agility. It's athleticism that shows up on field in games.

Washington's 28 catches last year went for 454 yards yards; that's 16.2 yards per catch. Comparing that production to NFL tight ends, that's more than 2 yards better than anyone (minimum 20 receptions) last season.

TIGHT ENDS, YARDS PER CATCH (2022)
PlayerNoYdsAvgTD
Darnell Washington, Georgia2845416.22
Chigoziem Okonkwo, Ten.3245014.13
Darren Waller, L.V.2838813.93
Jordan Akins, Hou.3749513.45
Colby Parkinson, Sea.2532212.92
Dallas Goedert, Phil.5570212.83
George Kittle, S.F.6076512.811
Foster Moreau, L.V.3342012.72
Kyle Pitts, Atl.2835612.72
Jelani Woods, Ind.2531212.53
Greg Dulcich, Den.3341112.52
Hunter Henry, N.E.4150912.42
Travis Kelce, K.C.110133812.212
Juwan Johnson, N.O.4250812.17
Pat Freiermuth, Pitt.6373211.62
Mark Andrews, Balt.7384711.65
Mike Gesicki, Mia.3236211.35
C.J. Uzomah, NYJ2123211.02
Cole Kmet, Chi.5054410.97
Austin Hooper, Ten.4144410.82
David Njoku, Cle.5862810.84
Dawson Knox, Buff.4851710.86
Noah Gray, K.C.2829910.71
T.J. Hockenson, 2TM8691410.66
Evan Engram, Jac.7376610.54
Isaiah Likely, Balt.3637310.43
Will Dissly, Sea.3434910.33
Dalton Schultz, Dall.5757710.15
Kylen Granson, Ind.313029.70
Noah Fant, Sea.504869.74
Gerald Everett, LAC585559.64
Tyler Conklin, NYJ585529.53
Ian Thomas, Car.211979.40
Cade Otton, T.B.423919.32
Trey McBride, Ari.292659.11
Jonnu Smith, N.E.272459.10
Daniel Bellinger, NYG302688.92
Robert Tonyan, G.B.534708.92
Cameron Brate, T.B.201748.70
Zach Ertz, Ari.474068.64
Tyler Higbee, LAR726208.63
Logan Thomas, Was.393238.31
Hayden Hurst, Cin.524148.02
Harrison Bryant, Cle.312397.71
Irv Smith, Min.251827.32

The other players at the top of this table include several we've talked about here recently -- Chigoziem Okonkwo, Dallas Goedert. Also grading out well are athletic receivers like Darren Waller and Kyle Pitts. Some intriguing potential.

Negative is that the Steelers already have a highly capable receiving tight end in Pat Freiermuth, and two what should be high-volume wide receivers in Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. But perhaps they'll use a lot of sets with two tight ends, and take advantage of Washington's size in the red zone.

What's clear is that there's some difference-making athleticism, if they use him.

--Andy Richardson

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