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5 things to know about 49ers sixth-round pick LB Dee Winters

Apr 29, 2023 at 3:11 PM


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The San Francisco 49ers used each of their three picks in the fifth and sixth rounds of the NFL Draft to add depth on defense, with the third and final pick being TCU linebacker Dee Winters with the 39th selection in the sixth round (216 overall).

Winters played wide receiver and safety early in his football career but settled in at linebacker for TCU, racking up plenty of experience and accolades along the way. Here's a look at what Winters brings to the San Francisco 49ers.

He did it all in high school


Winters is a graduate of Burton High School in the small town of Burton, Texas, which has a population of just around 300 people. He was an athletic standout in high school at just about everything.

Per the Houston Chronicle, Winters played baseball and basketball in high school, was on a state qualifying relay team, and saw time at running back, wide receiver, quarterback, linebacker, defensive back, and punter on the football field. Winters had 1,100 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in high school and was a district MVP as a sophomore and a district co-MVP as a junior.

Productive in college


Winters played in 48 games at TCU and totaled 246 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, three interceptions, ten passes defensed, and two fumble recoveries. In 2022, Winters had career highs in tackles (79), sacks (7.5), and tackles for loss (14.5). He won first-team All-Big 12 honors and was named as the defensive most valuable player in TCU's College Football Playoff semifinal win over Michigan (seven tackles, three tackles for loss, and a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown).

Winters participated in the 2023 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where he was named linebacker of the week for the American team.

"Winning that award definitely meant a lot to me," Winters told The Draft Network. "I cherish that honor and I appreciate everybody that voted for me. Most importantly, my goal was to prove that it doesn't matter who you line up in front of me. I'm capable of competing against anybody. That's exactly what I did in Mobile."

Familiar with the 49ers and linebackers coach Johnny Holland


The 49ers and Winters got to know each other well during the pre-draft process. Winters made a connection with 49ers linebackers coach Johnny Holland, who hails from the same area of Texas as Winters.

"He's actually from Hempstead, Texas, which is about 20 minutes where I'm from -- Brennan, Texas," Winters told reporters Saturday. "So kind of got a conversation started there to open up and have a little ice backer there. But I think Coach Holland is a great guy. He's definitely going to be himself, and I think he just is a great coach, and he's going to put you in the best position to make plays, and that's what you want as a player."

Winters met Holland at the Senior Bowl and remained in contact in the weeks following the game.

"My first time talking to him was at the Senior Bowl when we did the little 32 visits at each podium, and after that, it kind of transitioned to right before the combine, and it just stayed consistent," Winters said. "I think that was one of the biggest things that I felt during that process. And I'm definitely glad that I'm in San Francisco right now and definitely excited to get to work."

Looking forward to learning from Fred Warner


Winters will have two excellent role models to learn from early in his NFL career in 49ers linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. He's had his eye on Warner since converting to linebacker and is looking forward to being Warner's teammate.

"I've been watching Fred Warner for about two years now, ever since I kind of transitioned from safety to linebacker," Winters said Saturday. "Just finding somebody I feel like my game kind of models. I think Fred Warner is probably one of the top linebackers in the league, and that's definitely somebody I look up to. Definitely excited to get to work with him and kind of follow his footsteps."

What scouts said about Winters


Winters was clocked at 4.49 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 1.56-second 10-yard split and a vertical jump of 30.5 inches. NFL.com projected him as a Round 5 or 6 draft pick.

"A versatile linebacker with inside/outside experience, Winters needs to take on blockers with the same intensity he displays when he hits ball-carriers," wrote Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. "He lacks ideal size, so he will need to win with play speed and aggression in attacking the play design. He's adequate dropping into space and can get after the pocket as a blitzer. He might be best suited for a role as a run and strike Will linebacker, but he has the instincts and feel to play inside if he's protected by the front. Winters has Day 3 draft value with an average ceiling."

The Draft Network was high on Winters, ranking him as the No. 7 linebacker in the draft and the No. 84 player overall.

"(Winters) is a versatile second-level defender with athletic ability that allows him to make plays," wrote Keith Sanchez of TDN. "Winters' athleticism allows him to make plus-level plays against the run and on passing downs."

ESPN rated Winters as the No. 13 linebacker in the draft and the 180th-ranked prospect overall.

"Winters is a rangy run defender who closes well on a straight line," wrote Steve Muench of ESPN. "He's light with short arms, but he has the burst to shoot gaps and the explosive power to stun lead blockers in the hole when he plays downhill between the tackles. Winters reads the quarterback, diagnoses routes and flashes the ability to pluck the ball out of the air in underneath coverage. And he runs well enough to compete with backs and tight ends in coverage."
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