While Gary Brackett's contract extension has pushed LB need onto it's traditional backburner, Daryl Washington is still the kind of rangy cover LB with the experience holding down against the run to excel at OLB or in the middle for Indy.
Washington moved into the starting lineup full time last year, after standing out as a special teamer the previous 3 years. He blocked 4 punts as an underclassman and finished forth on the team in tackles as a junior despite starting only 2 games. As a senior he led the team in tackles with 109, with 11 of them of a loss along with 2 interceptions and 3 sacks.
Washington's best asset is fantastic speed and agility, he plays sideline to sideline with ease, and is a very good coverage linebacker. His Senior Bowl performance all but locked up a 2nd round selection for him, as he impressed with his ability to stay with speedy receiving TEs in coverage and use his speed to knife into the backfield against the run.
The concerns with Washington are his relatively lanky frame at 6'2" 230lbs (for comparison Wheeler is 6'2" 240lbs, while Brackett and Session are 235lbs and around 6 foot) and that he only started one year at a non-BCS school.
Showed he’s solid dropping back into zone and covering an area. Possesses the hip flexibility and speed to man cover on running backs and tight ends....displays very good football intelligence. He can quickly diagnose a play and figure out where it’s going. Rarely got fooled by play action plays. Very good pre-snap awareness.....When Washington gets a gap, he’s a very good pass rusher. Works well to the inside despite his lack of strength...... Very smooth in his pursuit and fluid moving in space. Has the speed to track down ball carriers. Would make more plays if he was more disciplined in his pursuit...... Washington might be the quickest linebacker prospect in this year’s draft. He’s always playing on his toes and can cut on a dime. Changes direction with ease and doesn’t lose speed or quickness when doing so.....Moves around with ease thanks to his speed and agility. A true sideline-to-sideline player. Has the range to stop the run from all sides of the field. Uses his speed to recover when he takes poor angles.....Doesn’t have the functional take-on strength to be a force in the running game. Has the speed and instincts to overcome his strength limitations....Not much of a power tackler. Typically has to drag down stronger running backs and tight ends. Needs to increase his take-on strength. Can be shrugged off when he doesn’t use proper tackling fundamentals.
Explodes into running lane and can smother underneath throws in zone coverage. Will get sucked in by play-action, but is fast enough to recover from a false step....Runs like a safety; has the straight-line speed to hustle downfield and chase to the sideline. Attacks and slides by fullbacks coming out of the hole, but will also lose the ball or overpursue the play. Knifes through holes when attacking stretch plays. Long arms help him bring down backs when he doesn't break down but lacks the strength to do the same at the next level. Runs around blocks inside and is inconsistent taking on blocks and using his length to get free.....Fluid in space. Can be too upright when dropping into zone coverage. Nice sideline-to-sideline range. Able to identify and stay with receivers in his zone and run with any tight end down the seam. Closes on the ball in the air. Keeps an eye on the receiver and one on the quarterback; will come off his guy to make a play. Tough for quarterbacks to throw over and Washington -- and in front of safeties.....Not an explosive tackler. Drags ballcarriers to the ground using his length....Explosive as an inside blitzer, and will reach the quarterback from a stack formation. Uses his speed and/or hands to get past running backs, guard cut blocks and through traffic inside. Has the change-of-direction ability to corral quarterbacks coming off the edge.
Washington possesses good height to add necessary bulk for the inside linebacker position. He’s a tough, competitive player, with a relentless motor who plays with disregard for his body. Instinctive performer who quickly diagnoses screens and draws. Good open field tackler. Comfortable playing in zone coverage and has the feet to cover backs in man coverage.....Needs added bulk and must improve his power at the point to hold up in the box against the run. Can be engulfed by bigger blockers that get into his body. Was only a one-year starter with less playing experience than most prospects. Despite good instincts, Washington takes initial false steps at times.
Washington seems a perfect fit for the mold of a Colts LB. He's got great skills against the pass and can defend the run from sideline to sideline as well as fly through gaps. He's not a guy that'll do well fighting off blocks from linemen, but that's nothing unusual for Colts LB prospects. He's got extensive skills and experience on special teams, so would likely have an instant impact there while taking the customary year to adjust to the D.
LB isn't enough of a need and Washington doesn't have the history of production to be the pick at #31, but if he lasts until pick #63 he's phenomenal value on a player who is a great scheme fit.