Fred Warner is the heart and soul of the 49ers defense. Drafted in the 3rd round in 2018, the 49ers saw a rangy hybrid linebacker who represented an evolution of the position. Warner was not meant to be the run stopping middle linebacker from a bygone era, Warner's skills perfectly matched the current state of the game. A game in which passing is emphasized by coaching and officiating, where a good QB earns $30 million a year while the very best running back can't make $15 million.

Though the 49ers drafted Warner with this in mind, they got so much more than they bargained for. Upon his arrival the 49ers hoped to pair him with Rueben Foster as their 1-2 punch at linebacker. Foster was their first-round pick from 2017, and looked to be the future of the defense. This made it even more impressive when Warner, not Foster, got the green dot on his helmet in his rookie season. The 3rd round rookie from BYU displayed the intelligence, leadership and commitment to be the defensive signal caller. By November 2018 Foster was released. Foster's poor behavior was the main reason for his release, but it's hard not to look at the development of Warner as something that made the decision that much easier. Warner was becoming what Foster was drafted to be, a team leader.

In 2019 the 49ers paired Warner with free-agent linebacker Kwon Alexander and then magic happened. Once timid, Alexander instilled confidence in Fred Warner, and in doing so, Warner's game elevated to a higher echelon. In 2018 Warner was solid, in 2019 Warner was a threat. With Warner commanding the defense the 49ers made it all the way to Super Bowl 54 and came up just short of a championship. While they may have lost a title, they found their defensive leader for the next decade in the process.

2019 Performance


Warner's statistical output saw a significant jump from 2018 to 2019. His ability to create turnovers was the most obvious area of improvement. Overall Warner recorded 118 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 9 passes defended, 1 interception and 1 touchdown. Warner did it all for the 49ers in 2019. Pro Football Focus graded Warner out at a 66.9.

2020 Cost


Warner may be the very best value player on the 49ers in 2020, considering George Kittle will get a new deal of course. The 49ers are only paying Warner $1 million this coming season.

Future Outlook


Picture Warner in red & gold for the next 10 years. His contract expires in 2021, at which point the 49ers would be foolish not to re-sign him and pay him like the cornerstone he is. His vast improvement from year 1 to year 2, coupled with his unquestionable leadership ability makes him a player the 49ers cannot afford to lose. When examining contracts of other players around the league at his position, it's fair to estimate his contract should cost the 49ers around $11-13 million per year. That will be money well spent.



Next: No. 7 - Richard Sherman
  • Written by:
    36 year old husband & father of 4, life-long 49ers fan living in Hudson Valley New York.