As the dust settles on the 2023 NFL Draft, major media outlets are going out in waves to give their perspective on how each team fared by handing out draft grades. Now, it’s hard to accurately place a grade on a draft class before the players in it play a snap in the NFL, but it tends to be a fun exercise, seeing where each analyst valued certain prospects and the picks made by every NFL franchise.
CBS Sports analyst Pete Prisco recently published his 2023 NFL Draft grades and gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a solid B+ for their draft haul. However, when naming the team’s best pick and worst pick, Prisco made a contrarian call compared to general consensus, calling the selection of Georgia TE Darnell Washington the team’s worst pick of their entire draft class.
“I didn’t like the pick of Darnell Washington in the third round,” Prisco wrote. “I just don’t think he’s sudden enough, and he has knee issues. Please put weight on him and make him a tackle. He can be Jason Peters 2.0.”
Well… that’s an interesting take to say the least.
For many draft and media analysts, the selection of Washington in the third round at #93 overall was viewed as Pittsburgh’s best selection during draft weekend, nabbing a player many expected to be a borderline first- round pick at the end of the third round after trading back with the Carolina Panthers to acquire a fourth-round pick. Even current Steelers CB Patrick Peterson lauded the selection of Washington, calling him the steal of the entire 2023 NFL Draft.
The praise from Peterson as well as many others for the selection of Washington makes sense. The 6’7, 264lb mountain of a man is an absolute devastating blocker, being nicknamed “The Sixth Offensive Lineman” which is a moniker he has embraced. However, unlike Prisco’s comments above, Washington is a quality athlete for his size, having run a 4.64 40 while jumping 31” in the vert and 10’2” in the broad. You see his athleticism not only as a blocker, but also in the receiving game as he can create after the catch as a runner and come down with some impressive jump balls in contested coverage.
Prisco has a point when pointing to Washington’s knees as a potential injury concern but it was reportedly just swelling after cleaning up some cartilage in his knee. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that a league source confirmed that the medicals “zonked” Washington, but that the same sources believe that he will be able to play a long time as Washington is currently healthy and ready to go for rookie minicamp.
It’s never bad to have contrasting opinions from time-to-time, but you better have a legitimate reason to back up your claim if you stand against the crowd. Prisco’s evaluation of Darnell Washington being Pittsburgh’s worst draft pick is personally laughable given the value that they got him at in the draft and how the reward far outweighs the risk for a player as unique as he is.
Calling Washington the next Jason Peters is negligent (although Washington is an accomplished blocker), as a more realistic comparison for Washington would be TE Mercedes Lewis, who has similar size and is also an accomplished blocker and reliable possession receiver. Here’s hoping Washington can have the career Lewis has had thus far, carving out a productive career as a TE in the league and not as an OT convert.