By Jeremy Hritz
After finishing up all of the Steelers draft pick profiles, it is now time to move on to the undrafted rookie free agents. In this series, which will cover all 10 UDRFAs, I will provide an overview and analysis of each prospect so you know what to expect, and how, potentially, the player fits into the Steelers plans heading into 2022.
Jaylen Warren, RB, Oklahoma State
Jaylen Warren is one of two undrafted rookie free agents that the Steelers have brought in to compete for the 2022 season, and as I mentioned when discussing Mataeo Durant, there is a very real opportunity to beat out both Bennie Snell and Anthony McFarland, as Snell has just been average, while McFarland has simply been unavailable. A runner in the mold of Maurice Jones-Drew, Warren is thick, compact, and unafraid of contact. While not many tools in his arsenal, his “trick” is brute force and breaking tackles, and taking advantage of a gassed defense.
Warren stands 5’8 and weighs in at 204 pounds, and at the NFL Combine, recorded a 4.55 40-yard dash, which is not lightning fast, but enough to be a productive runner at the professional level. In high school, Warren was named “Mr. Football” in Utah for recognition for his 3099 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns. Talk about prolific. Warren jumped around a bit, which has been a trend somewhat for this year’s Steelers UDRFAs, moving from JUCO Snow College to Utah State , before finishing out his career with Oklahoma State.
Strengths of Warren
Warren is tightly and powerfully put together in a package that is bowling ball-like (I mean this in the most endearing way), and he can thump defenders when he gets moving. As a result of his physicality and thickness, he breaks tackles with prowess, and picks up additional yardage that wouldn’t seem obvious at the plays initiation. Is a “commit and hit it” runner, meaning there is no dancing in his game: he knows the hole and flat-out goes, something that will be revered in Pittsburgh. Also, a very confident player who influences his teammates (was a team captain last season at Oklahoma State), and he is also adept in the screen game, able to rope in short dinker for a big gain.
Areas of Growth for Warren
While Warren is physical and can plow through defenders, this is his game, and there is no creation outside of it (which is not necessarily a bad thing). He is a straight-ahead runner, who is designed to pound and occasionally catch a screen pass, but anything laterally at this time is outside of his skillset. While he possesses decent speed, it isn’t elite, and he will not pull away from defenders for splash plays. Has work to do in pass protection.
Outlook for Making the 2022 Steelers Roster
Like Durant, Warren has a solid chance at making the 2022 Steelers roster. The team is always looking to upgrade every position, and if Warren shows he offers more than Snell or McFarland, then there is no question he can make the team. The Steelers are currently looking for a runner who can effectively spell Najee Harris while maintaining productive and continuity in the running game. Warren has some unique traits that the Steelers are intrigued by, it will just be a matter of what those traits look like when the pads come on in camp. Like Durant, Warren is a guy to pay close attention to this offseason.