All Donovan Warren could do was sit and wait. He had done his part. After leaving Michigan a year early to declare for the NFL Draft, Warren was projected to go as high as round two by certain experts.
“I just felt like it was the best decision for my future for me and my family,” Warren said of his decision to leave school early at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
But on draft day, Warren had to wait, wait and wait some more. As the Draft progressed over its new three-day format, the former Wolverine cornerback watched as more than 20 corners came off the board.
When it was all said and done, Warren wasn’t chosen, but he wasted little time in choosing a team of his own. Less than 30 minutes after the draft concluded, Warren tweeted that he was going to sign as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets. With the move, New York adds to its cornerback depth. Warren will certainly have to impress Jets coach Rex Ryan if he is going to make the team in 2010, let alone see the field.
During ESPN’s recap show on Sunday, Draft guru Mel Kiper speculated that if Warren had stayed at Michigan he would’ve been an early round pick next year. And Todd McShay, Director of College Football Scouting for ESPN Scouts Inc., used Warren’s example as a warning for players in college who think about leaving school early and could potentially “free fall” like Warren did.
McShay also said that when players like Warren declare early, NFL teams start looking at the prospects too late and aren’t as familiar with their games as they are with the well-scouted seniors. That leaves teams less likely to take them, not wanting to gamble on an unknown commodity.
Back in February, McShay thought Warren was definitely going to be one of the 255 players drafted.
“There’s a lot to work with, but there’s also lot of developing he still needs to do,” McShay said at the time. “He’s not a finished product. I don’t think he’s ideally suited, from a hip standpoint, to turn and run and be a man-to-man cover corner. But he’s physical, he’ll come up and hit you. I think he’d be a good fit in a Tampa-2, cover-2 type of defense, where he’s protected deep but could make a lot of plays in front of him. I think he’ll probably be a second at best, probably more of a third round pick.”
Warren left Michigan after a solid junior campaign in which he recorded four interceptions. He started since he was a freshman at Michigan and recorded an interception in each of his first two seasons.
Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who coached Warren during his freshman year, was the one who decided to start the true freshman in 2007. Carr said that over his years he had built up a recruiting pitch of starting talented cornerbacks immediately and that the chance to start was appealing to the Long Beach, California native. Warren became one of the starters, and Carr believes Charles Woodson’s Heisman Trophy win especially helped the pitch’s strength.
During the summer before his freshman year, Warren picked up on the coverages he needed to learn well enough to earn Carr’s confidence.
“It helped me a lot because I learned the game of football about concepts and formations at an early age,” Warren said. “So the game slowed down a lot more. And me playing with three different defensive coordinators and going through three different defenses, it helped me a lot learning for this next level. Anything that may come my way, I might have seen it already.”
Over the years, Warren added a physical aspect to his game, but he might have to get even more physical at the NFL level when he’ll have to contend with stronger wide receivers. Luckily for him, at 6-0, 192 pounds, Warren is on the bigger side of the cornerback spectrum.
For all of the Wolverines who have entered the NFL over the years, Carr has given simple advice to those seniors and few juniors, like Warren, who are trying to make it in the pros.
“Playing here at Michigan, the chances are you’re never going to play in front of bigger crowds,” Carr said. “You’re going to play on television every week. So the one thing you have to prove here is that you can play in the spotlight and you can deal with the pressure, because there is pressure. And if you can do that, it creates confidence.
“What I always try to tell them is that, the NFL is a business. And there aren’t many places where you can make that kind of money as a young man. And therefore you need to understand that there’s tremendous competition for those jobs and the longer that you can play the more money you make. And that’s going depend on your work ethic and taking care of your bodies. And understanding that you can always get better. Some guys don’t handle that life in the fast lane as well as others. But if you can do it then you have a chance to set yourself and your family up and do some good things. And have a great time.”