Name: Fred Warner
Pro team: San Francisco 49ers
College team: BYU
Draft status: Round three, 70th overall
- Height: 6’3″
- Weight: 236 pounds
- Arms: 32”
- Hands: 9.75”
- Bench press: 21 reps
- 40-yard dash: 4.64 seconds
- Vertical jump: 38.5”
- Broad jump: 119.0”
- 3-cone: 6.9 seconds
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.28 seconds
Warner’s best attribute is the ability to make plays in space. He played middle linebacker at BYU but at the Senior Bowl, the coaching staff asked him to move outside. There, he excelled as a natural Cover 2 outside linebacker with the ability to flip his hips and cover. He’s an intelligent player with excellent instincts and athleticism who is always moving towards the football.
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Warner isn’t exactly the strongest dude you’ve ever met, so he can get tied up with bigger interior offensive linemen. While coverage is his calling card, blitzing wasn’t something he was asked to do often for the Cougars. His lack of strength means he can get bullied in the run game on occasion. An NFL strength coach will help him make strides in this area.
Despite the fact he has yet to take a snap, his opportunities this off-season have been up and down. First, he was drafted as someone who could claim the weakside linebacker job. Then 49ers’ middle linebacker Reuben Foster found himself in legal trouble, with general manager John Lynch threatening to cut him if the allegations were true, which meant stock up for Warner. Once those allegations were dismissed, Warner’s value sunk a bit. Even with that, the underwhelming other talent on the roster would lead you to believe that he’ll rise up quickly.
Malcolm Smith, who spent 2017 on injured reserve, is currently listed as the starter at weakside linebacker. Barring injury, Warner should surpass him by the end of camp. With Warner’s coverage skills, I would have a hard time seeing the San Francisco coaches taking him off the field once he wins the starting job. Outside of Smith, unless the 49ers sign a late camp cut, there is very little competition on the roster to Warner.
As stated above, I would expect Warner to claim the job early on. Last season, the only 49ers linebacker to appear in all 16 games was strongside linebacker Eli Harold, and he only ended up with 450 snaps and 33 tackles to show for it. If Warner plays 1,000 snaps, he should get around 80 tackles which puts him in Danny Trevathan territory. Those numbers could go up if Foster has any other issues that arise. There isn’t a ton of talent to stop him from gobbling up snaps in the near future.
I like Warner’s long-term potential. Weakside linebacker is a good IDP spot and his coverage skills dictate he will stay on the field for all three downs. San Francisco is an improving roster, which means they should be in or leading their fair share of games, and that leads to more opportunities on defense as teams try to pass to catch up. If, for some reason, Foster falls off the straight and narrow path, Warner could become the leader of that linebacker corps.
I actually think Danny Trevathan is a pretty good comparison for Warner. Both can play inside or outside and are of similar size, though Warner is a couple of inches taller. Trevathan is definitely stronger than Warner, but I think Warner is probably an equal margin faster. But in today’s NFL where speed and coverage is at at premium, that’s a trade I’m willing to make.
PROJECTED RANGE FOR ROOKIE DRAFTS
Most of the mocks and rookie drafts I have done has seen Warner go in the fourth round, maybe sliding to the top of the fifth. Unless your team is desperate for linebackers, I can’t really see him going in the third. For my money, once you get past that first two tiers of Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds, then Rashaan Evans and Darius Leonard, Warner should be in consideration along with Leighton Vander Esch.
I don’t know if I would necessarily trade up for Warner during the rookie draft, but if I was making a deal to go from, for example the 2.03 to the 2.08, Warner would be player I would be targeting while acquiring another pick.