Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Top 20 for ‘20: #17 Dre Greenlaw

Gilbert Brink
Feb 14, 2020 at 7:03 AM


This series will be a rundown of the top 20 players for the 49ers' 2020 season. Each player will be analyzed from his 2019 performance, to the cost of the player and what his future with the 49ers looks like.

Dre Greenlaw is everything you could ask for in a 5th round pick. In training camp, there were whispers of how impressive this young LB out of Arkansas was playing. Whispers turned into verified statements, and before you knew it the 49ers no longer needed expensive LB Malcolm Smith, as Dre Greenlaw's emergence gave the 49ers the opportunity to move onto a younger, cheaper and better LB. As well as Greenlaw played in training camp and the pre-season, the 49ers were set at LB with defensive captain Fred Warner and coveted free-agent Kwon Alexander as the solidified starters. The 49ers generally play out of the nickel package, meaning they have 5 defensive backs, 4 defensive linemen and two linebackers on the field the majority of the time. This left little room for Greenlaw to make an impact, until Kwon Alexander went down with a regular season-ending injury on Halloween night vs. Arizona.

The following week Greenlaw stepped in vs. Seattle and made the 49ers front-office look brilliant with its 5th-round investment. Greenlaw was responsible for some iconic plays during the 2019 season, none larger than the dramatic goal line stop that sealed the Week 17 win vs. Seattle on Sunday Night Football. His tackle on TE Jacob Hollister gave the 49ers the win, the division and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Without that tackle the 49ers may not have made it to the Super Bowl, as the road to Miami would have been much rougher being the fifth seed.

2019 Performance


Greenlaw started 8 games during the regular season and recorded 92 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception and 2 tackles for a loss. During the playoffs, Greenlaw registered 14 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 tackle for a loss in 3 games. In his limited time starting it was evident that Greenlaw, only 22 years old, was a starting caliber player. PFF graded Greenlaw out at 63.9. In comparison to other LBs drafted in 2019, Greenlaw graded higher than both first-round picks Steelers Devin Bush (62.9) & Bucs Devin White (50.9). While his stats were respectable, the big plays he made defined him as a clutch defender. In his two games vs. Seattle, Greenlaw came up big with huge plays in the red zone. In their first contest Greenlaw intercepted Seattle QB Russel Wilson on the 5-yard line in OT and returned the ball back to mid-field. In their second contest, he made a play that will live forever in 49ers history; "clinch by an inch".

2020 Cost


Greenlaw will make $585,000 in 2020. No need to dive deep into this one, he is an absolute steal for that price. Having young players with this amount of talent on rookie contracts is how you stay competitive for a long time in this leage.

Future Outlook


The future is very bright for Greenlaw. He is under contract through 2022, and if he continues to perform at the level he did in 2019, the 49ers would be foolish not to attempt to extend him when that time comes. As much as people may not like to hear it, Greenlaw's emergence does allow the 49ers to question whether or not LB Kwon Alexander is expendable. While Kwon may be an emotional leader of the defense, and his speed and ability to cover ground is unquestioned, overall Greenlaw graded out slightly higher than Alexander by PFF (Greenlaw 63.9 > Alexander 61.9). It may not happen in 2020, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers look at Greenlaw as a much cheaper player who is capable of a very similar level of production. This could ultimately lead to Greenalw ascending Alexander and setting up the 49ers with a long run of Warner and Greenlaw as the two LBs leading this defense through the 2020s.



Next: No. 16 Raheem Mostert
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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