Carter Warren won't have to travel far from his family home in Paterson, NJ, to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park.
About 23 miles.
"I'm very excited," Warren told reporters on Saturday after being selected by the Jets No. 120 overall. "It's huge, growing up watching the Jets. I'm about 20 minutes away from the facility, I played at MetLife Stadium growing up. So, it's a pretty cool experience to get this opportunity."
The Jets traded back eight spots and obtained two picks for one from the Patriots, then selected Warren. He was at his parents' house, watching the NFL Draft on TV, when his phone rang.
"Oh my God, it was crazy," Warren said. "When the New Jersey number came in and called, I saw the Jets were up next. I was crying. My family was so happy. They didn't know what was going on. I was ecstatic."
Unlike some of the other top players in Northern New Jersey, Warren opted to stay close to home instead of potentially playing for a North Jersey high-school powerhouse, such as Bergen Catholic or Don Bosco Prep, Warren starred in high school at Passaic County Tech, a vocational public school just over the Paterson border in Wayne, NJ. Coming out of high school, there were reports that Warren, rated the No. 9 overall prospect in New Jersey by ESPN and No. 10 by Rivals and 247Sports, would stay in the state at Rutgers. Instead, he decided to attend Pittsburgh.
The 6-6, 331-pound left tackle redshirted in 2017 and worked scout teams without seeing game action that year and in '18. He took off from there -- starting all 13 games in 2019, 9 in 2020 and all 14 in 2021 (all at left tackle) when he was named to the all-ACC second team. He was also a team captain.
"I worked my tail off to get where I am," Warren, 24, said. "My third year came around and I finally became a starter."
Big things were expected last season. Warren played in the Panthers' first four games, then sustained a meniscus injury that put him on the shelf for the rest of the season (he said he is 100% recovered), and probably cost him a shot at being picked in an earlier round. In addition, he missed playing in the East-West Shrine Game, working out for scouts at the NFL Combine and only participated in drills at Pittsburgh's pro day. He fell to Day 3 and became one of GM Joe Douglas' "value picks," a guy with oodles of intangibles.
"I had a chance to go to the Georgia Tech vs. Pitt game [on Oct. 1] before our game against the Steelers [a 24-20 Jets win the next day] and he was already out," Douglas said. "But just seeing him on the sideline, you're like 'O.K., this guys fits the body type build,' and then going back and watching the tape on him last year, you see all these traits and you see everything that really good offensive tackles are made of in the National Football League – the size [6-6], the length [84.5-inch wing span/35-inch arm length], the pass pro ability, the balance, so feel good about hopefully getting a steal here in Day 3 on a guy with a lot of upside."
See the best images of the 120th overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh T Carter Warren.
For the second year in a row, Douglas used a pair of fourth-round picks to stock the Jets' roster. Last year, he added T Max Mitchell and DL Micheal Clemons in the fourth round. They each saw significant playing time last season. This year, as Douglas worked his late-round trading magic, it was Warren in the fourth, then Warren's Pitt teammate, RB Israel Abanikanda (Rd. 5, No. 143 overall; and then LB Zaire Barnes (Western Michigan, Rd. 6, No. 184); CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse (LSU, Rd. 6, No. 204); and TE Zack Kuntz, (Old Dominion, Rd. 7, No. 220).
With the additions of Warren and Wisconsin center Joe Tippmann (Rd. 2, No. 43), Douglas has added value and depth to the offensive line. In free agency, the Jets signed Trystan Colon, Wes Schweitzer, and on Monday, Billy Turner. Duane Brown, Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker are returning from injury. C Connor McGovern and Cedric Ogbuehi were re-signed, returning along with Laken Tomlinson, Adam Pankey and Greg Senat. Douglas has been true to his affinity for O-linemen, having played the position in college.
Asked for more of his analysis of Warren, he said: "His athleticism, his feet, balance, lateral agility. He's a natural pass protector. Really good bend in his lower body, hips, knees, ankles. The length, 35-plus arms, so he can keep those edge rushers off his body, out of his frame, so the natural pass protection ability is evident. Those guys are good at left and right tackle. Again, a smart, versatile guy, which is key for our unit."
HC Robert Saleh and the team's new O-line coach Keith Carter hope to avoid last season's raft of injuries and constant shuffling along the front of the offense, especially to keep new QB Aaron Rodgers as clean as possible.
"It's [the O-line] got a chance to be a really good group, but we've got to figure out how best to utilize each player," Saleh said. "It's going to take time between now and training camp."
As for Warren, whether he stays in familiar surroundings at home in Paterson or makes a move closer to 1 Jets Drive, he said he's confident that he's got what it takes to evolve into a versatile, impact player.
"They're getting a physical, dominant player, who is great with his hands, is smart, a great football IQ," Warren said. "He's ready to work. He's a hard worker, the hardest worker in the room. He's ready to go to work."