Being an optimist can be very difficult these days, especially if you are a fan of the San Francisco 49ers. It’s during this time we tend to reach for whatever positive light we can find even though there is none. However, it’s not a reach when it comes to strong side linebacker Fred Warner. He may be a rookie, but Warner’s command on the football field demonstrates that there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.
In his presser last Thursday, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh had glowing words to share about Warner and compared him to a former NFL linebacker. “It goes back to what I had mentioned earlier about Fred. He’s one of the smartest interviews I’ve ever had. He can take in information better than anyone I’ve been around. He’s up there with Paul Posluszny to me, and Paul Posluszny was darn-near a rocket scientist”.
The 49ers selected Warner in the third round (70th overall) and was the ninth linebacker drafted in 2018. He was projected by a majority of NFL draft experts to be a second round pick. He ranked as the fourth best outside linebacker in the draft by Scouts Inc. and ranked the sixth best outside linebacker by DraftScout.com.
Even though he’s a rookie, Warner has gained so much trust among the coaching staff that he was designated with the little green dot on his helmet, signifying him as the one relaying the plays from the sidelines. When asked what went into the decision to give Warner the green dot, Saleh said it was because of his unmatched intelligence. “When it came to Fred, just his intelligence and his IQ is off the charts.”
After Reuben Foster’s unceremonious departure, the 49ers will need Warner to continue his high level of play. The thought going into the season was that Warner and Foster would be a talented duo who they could build their defense around. Unfortunately thing didn’t work out that way, but Warner’s performance this season has soften that blow for coaches and fans alike. Malcolm Smith will line up on the other side for now, but expect Elijah Lee and James Onwualu to share snaps as well.
Warner’s play against the run last week was key in keeping the Buccaneers at only 3.4 yards per carry. In that game, Warner recorded seven total tackles, six of which were by him alone. Against Seattle’s first ranked rushing attack, Warner was able to add eight more tackles (2 solo) to his totals, giving him 92 combined. He is currently tied for 16th place with Denver Broncos’ inside linebacker Todd Davis.
With four more games left on the schedule, three of which are home games, I would expect Warner to continue his ascension. Give him an off-season to sharpen his skills, add a few pieces around him, and the 49ers could have the makings of a very formidable defense. Warner will get plenty of opportunities to pad his stats the remainder of the season, but it will be the experience he’s getting right now that will benefit him most going forward.
The 49ers’ defense has become a revolving door of injury and incompetence. Only a few players have shown that they have what it takes to weather this storm, count Fred Warner as one of them.
- ^Fann, Joe (April 27, 2018). “San Francisco 49ers Draft BYU LB Fred Warner”. 49ers.com. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
- ^”Fred Warner, DS #6 OLB, Brigham Young”. draftscout.com. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
- ^”NFL Fred Warner -ESPN”. ESPN.com. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
- ^”Fred Warner: Career Stats at NFL”. NFL.com. Retrieved December 2, 2018.