Darnell Washington is known for his blocking as a tight end, and that was his main selling point as an NFL Draft prospect. So, when he ranks his Top 5 tight ends in the NFL, it is not shocking to see him make some waves with his thought process given he has embraced the idea of being the ‘sixth lineman’ right away.
Appearing on the All Things Covered podcast with Bryant McFadden and Patrick Peterson, Washington was asked about his list of top five tight ends in the NFL. There were some obvious names that appeared on there. George Kittle, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, and fellow teammate Pat Freiermuth rounded out his list. However, there was no Travis Kelce.
Washington explained his reasoning for it. True to his form as a blocking enthusiast, he says Kelce might be listed as a tight end, but he’s really just a bigger wide receiver. For that reason, Washington left Kelce off the list of his top tight ends, but still noted the Chiefs tight end is elite.
“Travis Kelce is good, he’s great, and he’s put up the numbers. Yes, he’s listed as a tight end,” Washington said. “He’s in tight-end formations here and there. But to me, he’s just a bigger receiver. He’s mainly in the slot. That’s just their offense.”
Darnell Washington made a comparison to Kyle Pitts and Brock Bowers, two tight ends that are believed to have elite futures. Pitts and Bowers both did not win the Mackey Award because they did not put their hand in the dirt enough to win the award. Akin to those players, Washington looks at Kelce as a player in the same vein. So, it is not a knock on Kelce, but a specialization of the position.
“You look at a guy like Kyle Pitts and he should have won back-to-back Mackey Awards but didn’t because he didn’t have his hand in the dirt enough,” Washington said. “Same with Brock Bowers his first year. He had the best numbers but didn’t put his hand in the dirt enough. That’s how I also see Travis Kelce.”
Knowing the mentality that Washington abides by in his game, this list makes sense. He views himself as a different position entirely from Kelce as a guy who primarily plays in-line at tight end. Mike Tomlin joined the Rich Eisen Show on Thursday and described Washington as a ‘throwback’ player.
“Washington is really talented,” Tomlin said. “He’s got an awesome story. I love his appetite for the positions, for the blocking component of the position. He’s a throwback, if you will. He’s a guy that really has really good knowledge himself and he embraces skill sets. He’s excited about the blocking component of the game and I just think it’s awesome to have a guy that values that.”
In other words, it is hard to be shocked that Washington has Kelce classified in a different spot. But it makes plenty of sense in the modern NFL where that type of specialization is increasingly more common across all positions. So, Washington has a real point to be made there.