NFL teams are allocated 30 pre-draft visits each draft cycle, which Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has used significantly differently than Ted Thompson before him. Under Thompson, the Packers often used their limited visits as an extension of undrafted free agency, essentially turning these visits into recruiting trips for the lower end of the talent pool. Conversely, six of Green Bay’s draft picks in the 2022 draft took visits with the team last year, as Gutekunst has used visits to gain an extra look at potential draft choices.
UGA TE Darnell Washington is visiting the Packers pic.twitter.com/sSLxJxE48C— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 21, 2023
The first reported visit the Packers have set up for the 2023 cycle is with Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, who announced his location via an Instagram story early on Tuesday morning. Washington is currently ranked as the 35th overall player and third tight end on the consensus draft board, which makes him a candidate to be selected if Green Bay trades back from the 15th pick or if he falls to the 45th selection.
Washington is an in-line, hand-in-the-dirt tight end who contributed more as a blocker than as a pass-catcher for the back-to-back champion Bulldogs. One reason for this was that he was paired with a smaller, pass-catching tight end in Brock Bowers, who earned back-to-back First-Team All-SEC honors as a true freshman and sophomore in 2021 and 2022. Along with the all-conference accolades, Bowers won the John Mackey Award and was named First-Team All-American in 2022.
Despite his relative lack of production, the 6’7”, 264-pound Washington was still able to earn Second-Team All-SEC honors in 2022. While Washington only caught 45 passes during his career with Georgia, his 17.2 yards per reception average is higher than any other major tight end prospect in this class.
Darnell Washington is a TE prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.87 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 15 out of 1043 TE from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/nuPxNPO2ts #RAS pic.twitter.com/bgubZueJIf— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 21, 2023
At his massive size, Washington put up a blazing 4.64-second 40-yard dash and a 4.08-second short shuttle in Indianapolis at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. For perspective, that shuttle time is closer to that of an elite cornerback prospect than one a 264-pound tight end is expected to run. The hope, for any team drafting Washington, is that he will blossom into more of a pass-catching contributor at the next level when he doesn’t have to share reps with Bowers, who himself will almost certainly be the first tight end drafted in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Last month, Acme Packing Company’s Tyler Brooke and Justis Mosqueda ranked their top tight end prospects in the class and actually both named Washington as the number one player, with the consensus top tight end Michael Mayer of Notre Dame ranked in the second slot. Below is Brooke’s scouting report on Washington:
A massive, intimidating TE prospect who has had plenty of experience in Georgia’s offense. Possesses an alien-like size and athleticism combination that makes him a serious mismatch problem in the passing game. Excellent effort and play strength makes him an intimidating matchup for defenders as a blocker. His motor will have him continuing to find work downfield, opening up explosive plays for his teammates. Finds work easily up the seam, and has the body control to handle contested catches. Good contact balance and elite play strength makes him an extremely difficult player to bring down after the catch. Shows good willingness as a blocker, but he’s so tall that he has a hard time getting low and into his blocks consistently when working as an in-line blocker. Adequate lateral movement skills limit the route tree that he can run at the next level. Will suffer drops on over-the-shoulder catches deep downfield.
For reference, the Packers’ tight end room is currently made up of move tight end Josiah Deguara, special teams contributor Tyler Davis and two players who were signed to reserve/futures contracts (Nick Guggemos and Austin Allen.) Green Bay’s two most-played tight ends from the 2022 season, Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, were able to hit free agency early this month after the Packers were unable to keep them on the squad due to their limited cap space. Tonyan has since signed with the Chicago Bears while Lewis remains a free agent, but has reportedly drawn interest from the New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders.