There is a theme amongst the Cincinnati Bengals fanbase: the team needs to address the tight end position in the upcoming NFL Draft. Luckily for the Bengals, two tight ends fit perfectly with what they need from that position, at opposite ends of the draft.
Darnell Washington, Georgia
If the Bengals want the best tight end for what they do, they will need to select Darnell Washington with the 28th overall pick. The Georgia Bulldog is the best run and pass blocker of this year’s class.
We have witnessed Zac Taylor try to implement blocking defensive ends with tight ends since he became head coach and de facto offensive coordinator. Those attempts have failed miserably. A player of Washington’s talent and stature would be an excellent option to help open up some of those things that Taylor likes to do.
To coach Taylor’s credit, we saw a lot less of tight ends one-on-one versus edge rushers in passing situations. But we also got to see just how well of a pass blocker running back Samaje Perine is in those situations. Now with Perine in Denver, the Bengals will need to find someone who can pick up the slack in that area.
When it comes to pass catching, Washington is a capable receiver. His statistics are not as prolific as Dalton Kincaid's or Michael Mayer's but in Cincinnati’s offense, which features Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon, he does not need to be.
This does not mean that he is incapable of being a good receiver though. It simply means that he did not get the same amount of opportunities to showcase that part of his game.
Washington finished last year with 28 catches, 454 yards, and two touchdowns. His 16.2 yards per reception led all tight ends last season. He finished his career with an incredible average of 17.2 yards per reception. Washington did so with a blend of strength and athleticism.
Washington is bigger, faster, and stronger than Mayer and Kincaid according to the NFL Combine. Teams are surely going to fall in love with his measurables. He is also a tight end who excels at blocking. Sometimes the term “blocking tight end” is used when it should not be. This is not the case with Washington.
While he is not considered to be a receiving threat, he has a higher quarterback rating when targeted (111.2) than Mayer (106.7). His 16.2 yards per reception are higher than Mayer and Kincaid. What Mayer and Kincaid have over Washington are total catches and yards. Kincaid also has an outstanding 122.8 QB ranking when targeted.
Right now, Pro Football Focus has Washington at 71 overall, which is one of the more outrageous rankings you will find this draft season. NFL.com currently ranks him 34th. NFL Mock Draft Database, currently ranks him 33rd overall. NFL Draft Buzz’s ‘Overall Rank’ places Washington at 35.0.
If the Bengals do decide to target a tight end in the first round, it must be Washington. That is of course if he is still on the board at 28.