Niners See Warner Making an Impact as a Rookie - NBC Bay Area
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Niners See Warner Making an Impact as a Rookie

Former BYU linebacker could fill Foster's role or contribute in other ways if Foster remains on the team in 2018

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    Former BYU linebacker Fred Warner (No. 4) brings down a Boise State ballcarrier in a 2017 game. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

    John Lynch insists the 49ers would have drafted Fred Warner even if Reuben Foster’s status for 2018 is a question mark.

    The 49ers general manager said he and head coach Kyle Shanahan love the former BYU linebacker whom they selected in the third round last week. But Lynch also acknowledged Warner does give the team an insurance policy if Foster – now in limbo as he faces domestic-violence charges – is unavailable next season (or beyond).

    “I think we knew that we better have an answer there,” Lynch said in an interview on 95.7 The Game Wednesday morning, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “Fred Warner probably would have been drafted by us had Reuben not had any situation at all. We wanted to continue to improve at that position, but I think Reuben’s situation probably put even a little more emphasis on, ‘We need to find someone there.’

    “We’re just pleased. We think Fred Warner is a good football player. … We were excited to grab him.”

    Warner was the first defensive player selected by the 49ers in the recent draft, following tackle Mike McGlinchey (Round 1) and wide receiver-punt returner Dante Pettis (Round 2), and could have an immediate impact as a rookie.

    Warner was a playmaker for BYU, showing great speed and instincts. Depending on the status and health of Foster and Malcolm Smith, who was lost last year to injury, Warner could start in the middle or at one of the outside linebacker spots, and the Bee’s Barrows says Warner is loved by many NFL scouts.

    “Don’t sleep on the rookie, who is fast, smart and reminds some of (the Seahawks’) Bobby Wagner,” he wrote after the draft.

    In NFL.com’s grading of the 49ers’ draft, the selection of Warner received applause.

    “Warner is a solid linebacker worthy of a third-round pick,” wrote NFL.com’s Chad Reuter. “He’ll shore things up at whatever spot the team requires at the second level.”

    Warner has good size at 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds and was a high-impact performer for the Cougars in 2016 and 2017. Warner had 86 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three interceptions in 2016 and 87 tackles, four fumble recoveries and an interception in 2017.

    Wrote Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, in his pre-draft scouting report of Warner: “While most view him as an outside linebacker, Warner moves around like a big safety. With his instincts and cover skills in space, finding a hybrid role in sub packages might be where he is best utilized.”

    In March, the DraftWire website labeled Warner as “the most underrated” linebacker in the draft.

    Warner says he in fact loves the way the Seahawks’ Wagner plays – with speed, energy and ability to make plays in space – and has a background at BYU that allowed him to play in a similar way.

    “I played an unorthodox position in college,” he told DraftWire. “That’s not really a position in the NFL. I played out in space. It was more of a nickel position. I would come down towards the line of scrimmage here and there but I felt like I was very comfortable playing that inside linebacker position. That’s where I ultimately see myself at the next level.”

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