There’s nothing that represents the months of March and April more than ‘ole Mel Kiper Jr. and his mock drafts.
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Kiper released his second mock draft of the offseason. This draft accurately reflected each team’s current positioning in the first round to date. There’s no doubt that after a 7-10 season, there are plenty of positions that the New Orleans Saints could reasonably choose at pick number 29.
Tight end, however, was not one of the positions most Saints fans had in mind.
Kiper predicted that at pick number 29, the New Orleans Saints will select Georgia Tight End Darnel Washington.
This is a surprise to many for multiple reasons. Firstly, the current state of the tight end room.
There will likely be three returning tight ends next year: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, and Adam Trautman. All three are very different in their own ways, but all of these players have produced offensively at some point or another in their careers.
Johnson might have been the most improved player on the offense last season, hauling in 42 receptions for 508 yards and seven touchdowns. It was a breakout year for the third-year veteran.
Juwan Johnson with his 6th TD of the season on a 19-yd strike from Andy Dalton!! #ATLvsNO | : FOX pic.twitter.com/iu96dcjdUr— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 18, 2022
In Mel Kiper’s decision to draft Washington, he referred to Johnson’s 2022 season as “fine”
“I could see arguments for defensive line, cornerback or safety. But (New Orleans) also has a huge hole at tight end. Juwan Johnson was fine last season — 42 catches, seven touchdowns — but they could upgrade with Washington, who is one of the most physically gifted and talented tight ends I’ve scouted. People who are 6-foot-7, 250 pounds are not supposed to move as fluidly as he does.”
Personally, given the upside of Johnson and his surrounding cast, I believe that tight end is one of the lesser-needed offensive roster spots for this draft, especially in the first round.
To Kiper’s credit, Washington is a phenomenal prospect.
He’s one of those tight ends that will be drafted in the first or second round based on his size and athleticism alone. “People who are 6-foot-7, 250 pounds are not supposed to move as fluidly as he does,” Kiper writes.
My mentions said Darnell Washington is a blocking TE pic.twitter.com/RCxMjyvcUe— Edgar Salmingo, Jr. ✌️ (@PanthersAnalyst) January 25, 2023
The downside to Washington is that he has not provided the best numbers for a first-round tight end. In fact, Washington is the fourth tight end to be drafted in Kiper’s mock draft.
In 2022, Washington recorded 454 yards on 28 receptions for just two touchdowns. To his credit, he was competing for targets with Brock Bowers, one of the best tight ends in the country in 2022.
Given the concerns with Washington’s outputs and the current state of the Saints’ tight end room, to be honest, I’m not sure what Kiper is thinking here. There are currently plenty of team needs that are more important than a tight end, especially one that might take a couple of seasons to develop into his true self.
How would you grade Kiper’s prediction for the Saints to draft Washington in the first round?
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