Michael Warren II, RB, Cincinnati
Warren didn’t work out at the Scouting Combine because of a hamstring injury. (And then COVID-19 decided he wouldn’t get a pro day, either.)
Warren is the 1st Bearcat to ever enter the NFL Draft early. He chose Cincinnati over 9 other FBS offers, including Iowa, Kentucky and Minnesota. That followed a high school career in which Warren amassed 7,619 rushing yards, 5th most in Ohio history. His 105 career TDs tied for 6th in state history. The 3-star recruit finished as a Parade Magazine 1st-team All-American.
On campus in Cincinnati, Warren spent his true freshman as a reserve and special-teamer he ranked just 4th among Bearcats in carries, in a backfield led by Mike Boone (the same guy that crushed your Week 16 fantasy lineup last season).
With Boone out of the way in 2018, Warren jumped to the fore. He beat the team’s next RB by 155 carries and ranked 4th on the team in receptions. Warren set school records for rushing TDs (18) and total TDs (20) while tallying the 3rd-most rushing yards in school history.
Warren again led the Cincinnati backfield in 2019. His 43.1% market share of carries ranked 11th among the 30 RBs invited to the Scouting Combine. His 46.7% share of rushing TDs checked in 13th. Warren topped 120 rushing yards 4 times, adding to 6 such games the year before.
(Courtesy of WhatsOnDraftNFL)
Games watched: Miami (Ohio), UCLA, Central Florida, Memphis, Boston College, UCLA 2018
Don’t look for “wow” in Warren’s tape. You probably won’t find it. But you will find a steady ball carrier. Really, I see A.J. Dillon + receiving ability.
Let’s start with the power you’d expect from a 226-pounder nicknamed “Truck.”
Warren also has decent feet, though. I saw more agility in his games than I did in those I watched for Dillon’s scouting report.
Warren ranked 5th in this RB class in Pro Football Focus’ elusive rating (110.4), trailing only Utah’s Zack Moss, Maryland’s Javon Leake, Florida State’s Cam Akers and LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
His agility doesn’t approach elite level, but it should be enough to get him drafted.
Warren doesn’t always hit the line hard, even when the path seems fairly apparent.
The key differentiator for me between Warren and Dillon, though, is the sheer fact that he played a key receiving role for the Bearcats. I’m not saying Warren impresses in the passing game, but he served as more than just an outlet/checkdown.
And there are some hands to work with.
Warren drew 11% of Cincinnati’s receptions as a 1st-time starter in 2018 and then 10.1% last season. He might have garnered more in 2019, but HC Luke Fickell purposely limited his work over the 1st half of the season to keep the lead back healthy for the stretch run.
Warren looks like he has a lot of work to do in pass protection. I saw multiple pitiful cut-block attempts on blitzers. Nearly all RB prospects enter the league needing significant work on that front, though. And he’s at least willing.
Warren is a Day 3 RB and might even go undrafted. We don’t get any testing numbers to either confirm or combat what looks like fairly average athleticism on tape. What we do get, though, is a guy whose performance looked even better when you factor in the weak blocking that showed up on tape.
According to Pro Football Focus numbers, Warren ranked 218th out of 226 draft-eligible RBs last season in yards before contact per attempt (0.98). That was worse than Cam Akers (1.03 per attempt, 213th) whose O-line woes have been well-documented.
After contact, Warren delivered 3.88 yards per attempt. That ranked 36th in the group -- top 16%. It’s also 0.4 more yards per attempt than Dillon delivered (3.48, 81st in the group).
Warren isn’t a blazer, but he proved able to accelerate and eat up yards when he gets through the 1st level of defenders.
This isn’t a guy to chase in your dynasty rookie drafts, but Warren looks capable of carving out a role in the right NFL situation and should present an attractive rookie-draft discount vs. some other similar talents in this class.