A lot of outside analysts are very impressed with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft, virtually from the top to the bottom. They praise the organization for moving up to get Broderick Jones while also commending them for selections considered to be great value. More than one has called the third-round selection of Darnell Washington “the steal of the draft”.
Among those praising that particular move is Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout who has become one of the premier draft analysts. He was on the Pat McAfee Show yesterday discussing Washington and why he was available late in the third round.
“All the medical stuff goes over my head”, he admitted, but said of the pre-draft process, “I was just told, ‘Hey, he could slide a little bit because of the medical stuff”. That obviously proved to be true, ultimately drafted 93rd overall.
“I thought he would go probably in the back half of the second round, he’d drop a little bit, but I think the fact we had so many tight ends in this draft that teams were maybe a little reluctant to go there”, Jeremiah added, referring to his expectations after being told of the likelihood some medicals would cause him to drop. “He would’ve been long gone”, if not for that. “Once he started dropping, you get to the point where you’re just, ‘This is ridiculous, this guy is way too good’”.
Medical concerns are, of course, legitimate, especially for teams making sizeable investments in players with limited draft resources. You only have one shot at each round, typically, so you can’t afford to make a mistake. Pittsburgh is banking on its own medical examination of Washington, but all teams must trust their own assessment—even if it means eliminating a player like Rob Gronkowski from their board, as the Philadelphia Eagles did in 2010 while Jeremiah was with the organization.
“We couldn’t take him. He was off our board, like this guy is only gonna last a couple years, then he’ll break down, like his knee or his back or whatever issue he had”, he recalled. “Obviously we know how that ended, so hopefully similar success there for Darnell”.
Gronkowski missed the entire 2009 season before declaring for the draft due to a back injury that required surgery, which would come to be an issue later in his career. But he still put up Hall of Fame numbers, so things could have been worse.
The New England Patriots still drafted him 42nd overall in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He emerged as a perennial Pro Bowler or better by his second season. Now, that doesn’t mean Washington is going to be Gronkowski—after all, Gronk had more significant injury concerns and still went in the top half of round two—but hey, you never know.
Washington was ultimately the eighth tight end selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, with one going in the first round and six in the second. Compared to 2010, Gronkowski was the second tight end drafted, and the first one in the second round. Only four tight ends had been taken, including one at 93, in that draft at the same point the Steelers took Washington.