Jaylen Warren was quite the find for the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, developing into a solid change of pace back to second-year standout Najee Harris.
Turns out, he’s one of top receiving backs in the NFL already, at least according to his receiving grade from Pro Football Focus in 2022, which has him as the fourth-best receiving back in the NFL from last season. Warren graded out at 79.8 overall on the season as a receiver, finishing behind San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey (92.4), Las Vegas’ Ameer Abdullah (81.1) and Washington’s Antonio Gibson (80.5) on the year.
“Coming on strong as the receiving back in the Steelers offense in the second half of the 2022 season, Warren finished his rookie season with 28 receptions for 214 yards on 32 targets,” PFF’s Gordon McGuinness writes regarding Warren’s season as a receiver.
Early on in training camp, Warren was buried on the depth chart at the position. But, through hard work, consistency and the ability to hold up rather well in pass protection caused him to rocket up the depth chart and earn the No. 2 job behind Harris, providing the Steelers with a dependable 1-2 punch in the backfield.
Warren often found himself on the field in passing situations where he could catch the ball out of the backfield in large part due to his work in pass protection. Warren was rather good in that area of the game as an undrafted free agent, providing some serious toughness and physicality in front of quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett on the season.
With the football in his hands as a receiver, Warren made some plays, providing the Steelers with a much-needed spark at times. His catch and run against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 was arguably his best play of the season as a receiver, catching a check down behind the lien of scrimmage and forcing multiple defenders to miss in space, converting the 3rd and 8 in the process.
After a strong rookie season overall, which saw him rack up 593 total yards on 101 touches offensively, a big second season awaits for the Steelers’ impressive backup running back. He’s an ideal complementary running back to Harris and should only get better with more experience and comfort.
We’ll see if he can build on that fourth-best receiving back ranking in the NFL next season, too.