2023 NFL Draft: Packers host Georgia TE Darnell Washington visit

NFL teams are allotted 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 free agency, essentially turning those visits into recruiting trips for the bottom end of the talent pool. Conversely, six of Green Bay’s draft picks in the 2022 draft visited the team over the past year, as Gutekunst used visits to get an additional look at potential draft decisions.

The first reported visit the Packers have scheduled for the 2023 cycle is that of Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, who announced his whereabouts via an Instagram story early Tuesday morning. Washington is currently ranked 35th overall and third tight end on the Consensus Draft Board, making him a candidate to be selected if Green Bay withdraws from the 15th pick or if he falls into the 45th pick.

Washington is an inline hand-in-the-dirt tight end that has contributed more as a blocker than a passcatcher for back-to-back champion Bulldogs. Part of the reason 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 in 2021 and 2022 as a true freshman and sophomore All-Conference honors that Bowers won the John Mackey Award and was named a First-Team All-American in 2022.

Despite his relatively poor performance, the 264-pound Washington 2022 was still able to earn second-team All-SEC honors. 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.

Given his size, Washington pulled off a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and a 4.08-second short shuttle at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. From perspective, that shuttle time is closer to that of an elite cornerback prospect than one that a 264-pound tight end is expected to run. The hope for any team that drafts Washington is that if he doesn’t have to share reps with Bowers, who himself will almost certainly be the first tight end, he’ll develop into a pass-catcher associate at the next level being drafted in the 2024 NFL draft.

Last month, Acme Packing Company’s Tyler Brooke and Justis Mosqueda ranked their top tight-end contenders in the class, and in fact both named Washington the best player, with Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, the consensus top tight-end, landed in second place. Below is Brooke’s scouting report on Washington:

A massive, intimidating TE prospect who has plenty of experience on the Georgia offense. Possesses a combination of extraterrestrial size and athleticism that makes him a serious mismatch problem in the passing game. Excellent deployment and skill make him an intimidating matchup for defenders as blockers. His engine will keep him finding work in the field and opening up explosive plays for his teammates. Easily finds the seam and has the body control to handle contested catches. Good contact balance and elite skill level make him an extremely difficult player to trip after the catch. Shows good readiness as a blocker, but he’s so tall that he has a hard time getting low and consistent into his blocks when working as an inline blocker. Sufficient lateral movement skills limit the route tree he can walk to the next level. Will suffer drips on over-the-shoulder catches deep in low field.

For reference, the Packers tight end room currently consists of move tight end Josiah Deguara, special teams agent Tyler Davis, and two players who have signed reserve/futures contracts (Nick Guggemos and Austin Allen). Green Bay’s two most-played players from the tight ends of the 2022 season, Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, were able to get free hands earlier this month after the Packers were unable to keep them on the roster due to their limited space. Tonyan has since signed with the Chicago Bears while Lewis remains a free agent but has reportedly attracted interest from the New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders.

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