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Why Jets’ Carter Warren is unusually pro-ready for a 4th-rounder

Carter Warren, NY Jets, Stats, NFL Draft Picks
Carter Warren, New York Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

New York Jets rookie Carter Warren boasts a unique profile for a fourth-round offensive tackle

Just as everyone expected, the New York Jets selected an offensive tackle in the 2023 NFL draft. There was just one small difference between expectations and reality: They didn’t take an OT until the fourth round.

Joe Douglas subverted the expectations of his fanbase by passing on his team’s perceived No. 1 need in each of the first two rounds. But he did not leave the position completely neglected, as he selected Pittsburgh’s Carter Warren with the 120th overall pick in the fourth round.

Warren is not your ordinary fourth-round tackle. In many ways, his profile suggests he is more pro-ready than most tackles that are drafted in the fourth round.

Let’s dig into Warren’s analytical profile to learn more about who he is as a player and why he might be a surprisingly high-floor prospect relative to his draft position.

Jets 2023 draft class analytical profiles:

Build

Like Joe Tippmann, Warren did not participate in any drills this offseason, so unfortunately we do not have any data on his athleticism. We do have his measurements, though. Here is a look at Warren’s measurements and how they compare all-time among tackles at the combine:

  • Height: 6′ 5⅝” (47th percentile)
  • Weight: 311 pounds (42nd percentile)
  • Arm length: 35⅜” (88th percentile)
  • Hand size: 9⅛” (3rd percentile)

Warren is an average-sized tackle in terms of height and weight, but he does have outstanding length. His 35⅜” arms are longer than 88% of tackles. However, his hands are very small, so that will be something to monitor.

Usage/role

Warren played left tackle for the vast majority of his time at Pittsburgh, logging 2,288 snaps in that position. He made a few cameo appearances at right tackle as he played 11 snaps there.

Over the first three seasons of his career, the Panthers frequently placed Warren on the end of the line in a tight end alignment as part of six-lineman packages. Warren played 466 snaps as a “tight end” over his first three seasons. He never ran any routes out of that alignment; it was solely for blocking purposes.

Warren comes from an extremely zone-heavy offense. In 2022, he had an 81%/19% split between zone-blocking snaps and gap-blocking snaps. That is much more extreme than what the Jets will employ, but since the Jets will favor zone concepts, it can be viewed as a positive that Warren is experienced with them. However, he will have to handle more gap/power concepts than he is used to.

Warren’s true pass set experience suggests pro-readiness

Here’s the primary trait that suggests Warren might be uniquely pro-ready: His experience with true pass sets.

A lot of college tackles come from gimmicky offenses where they rarely have to handle difficult pass-blocking assignments. Whether it’s read-options, run-pass options, screens, rollouts, or quick releases, college offenses tend to rely more heavily than NFL teams on concepts that ask little of the offensive linemen in pass protections.

This was not the case for Warren. In Pittsburgh’s offense, Warren was asked to work harder in pass protection than just about any other tackle in college football.

Back in the 2021 season (his last full season, as he only played 4 games in 2022 prior to a season-ending meniscus injury), Warren played 342 true-pass-set snaps – the most of any FBS tackle. No other tackle even had 300 snaps in true pass sets.

PFF describes a true pass set as any passing play in which there is no play action, no screen, no rollout, a time-to-throw between 2 and 4 seconds, and a rush of more than three players. It is a tool for isolating situations in which the offensive and defensive linemen engage in true one-on-one battles, where the result is unaffected by external factors and dictated solely by their individual execution.

Warren’s ample experience with true pass sets could allow him to enjoy a smoother transition to the NFL than most of his peers, as many of them are not used to handling a heavy workload in pass protection. Over the final two years of his Pittsburgh career (comprising 14 games in 2021 and 4 in 2022), a whopping 50.7% of Warren’s pass-blocking snaps were considered true pass sets. In comparison, the 2022 national average for FBS tackles was just 33.1%.

Most importantly, Warren was effective in true pass sets. In 2021, he allowed pressure on just 4.4% of his true pass sets, placing him at the 86th percentile among qualified FBS tackles. That was actually better than two eventual 2022 first-round picks: Ikem Ekwonu (5.3%) and Charles Cross (4.8%).

When you watch Warren on tape, he looks the part of a solid starting tackle in the NFL. He is smooth getting into his kick-slide, has a polished stance, and makes the most of his top-tier length, throwing well-timed strikes to keep defenders at a distance. The clips below are a perfect visual representation of Warren’s experience and success in true pass sets.

Run-blocking needs work

Warren’s pass-blocking outlook is promising, but there are concerns in the run game.

Warren never thrived as a run-blocker at Pittsburgh. In 2022, Warren’s 60.3 run-blocking grade at PFF ranked 175th out of 332 FBS tackles with at least 100 run-blocking snaps (47th percentile). His career-best grade was 67.6 in 2021, which still only ranked 139th out of 328 players (58th percentile).

Considering Warren was 22 years old in 2021 and 23 years old in 2022, it’s especially disappointing that he could not display physical dominance over opponents that were mostly younger than him. The run game is one of the rare facets of football where pure physical superiority can lead to success even without pristine technique, but Warren could not get it done despite his advanced age.

Warren tends to perform much better in zone concepts than gap concepts. He had zone-blocking grades of 66.8 and 73.7 over the past two seasons, compared to gap-blocking grades of 40.1 and 55.4.

However, those zone-blocking grades are still not very good. They placed at the 69th and 72nd percentiles, respectively. Sure, it’s above average compared to the typical FBS tackle, but it’s not close to high enough for a player who is about to compete against NFL defensive linemen. And, as we mentioned earlier, Warren will be asked to run far more gap-blocking concepts in the NFL than he did in college, so his lowly grades in that area are concerning.

When watching Warren’s film, nothing special pops out from a physical perspective. I didn’t think he flashed the greatest lateral movement skills or explosiveness. He just doesn’t seem to possess any unique athletic traits and that proved detrimental to his run-blocking. I don’t think he would have stood out in the agility and speed drills if he tested – more likely, I would have expected him to perform at position-average levels in drills like the forty and the shuttle.

Warren’s game is built around his length and technique. He is not the typical Jets prospect who boasts world-class athleticism. In the NFL, Warren will have to prove he can overcome his lack of physical dominance to become a starting-quality run-blocker. Can he use his length and technique in the run game just as effectively as he has used those traits in the passing game?

Carter Warren is an intriguing developmental tackle

After the Jets drafted Warren, NFL Network’s on-air analysts stated they believed Warren could have been a second or third-round selection if he came out in the 2022 draft class. Warren stayed in school to try and further improve his stock, but an untimely meniscus injury led to the opposite effect. At 24 years old and coming off a serious injury that prevented him from testing, Warren was destined to be selected on Day 3.

But you can see the Day 2 talent when you watch Warren – especially in pass protection. He’s long, technically sound, and more battle-tested than most college tackles.

Warren needs work in the run game. There is a chance that his ceiling as a run-blocker will always be limited, but with technical improvements, he could improve to a league-average level in that phase. If he can couple league-average run-blocking with above-average pass-blocking, he has the potential to become a solid starter in the NFL.

For the moment, Warren should be viewed solely as a developmental swing tackle for the Jets. It would be overly optimistic to expect anything more. However, don’t be completely surprised if Warren one day develops into a diamond-in-the-rough steal for New York. Many of the league’s best offensive tackles were unheralded Day 3 picks, just like Warren. Some of these guys do turn into great players, and Warren has many of the same traits that helped those Day 3 underdogs develop into unexpected stars.

In 2023, I would expect the Jets to stash Warren on the second-string unit as a backup who is only tossed into action if an emergency situation forces it. But if he is forced into action, I think he has a reasonable chance of holding up better in pass protection than most other emergency tackles in the league. The run game is a different story, but I truly do believe in Warren’s pass-blocking impact right off the bat.

The 2024 season should present Warren with a chance to compete for a starting job. If he impresses the Jets throughout his rookie year in practice, in the preseason, and in any regular-season (or postseason?) snaps, the Jets could trust him enough to put him at the forefront of their tackle plans going into the 2024 offseason.

Realistically speaking, I think the Jets are hoping that just one of Warren and Max Mitchell can develop into a starter by Week 1 of 2024. If you can get one solid starting tackle out of two fourth-round picks, that’s a major victory.

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Rich
Rich
1 year ago

Rookie OLinemen almost always take their lumps in their first year in the league, even the great ones. Brick started from game 1, learned a lot, got schooled by the good DEs (I remember Jason Taylor owned Brick early on), and was rock solid from year 2 on. I actually agree with JD not reaching for an OT early (despite the need), b/c it’s all about this year with Rodgers at QB. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a rookie OT protecting AR this year. Wise to use the higher picks for players that will contribute right away this year.

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