The San Francisco 49ers spent a third round pick on BYU linebacker Fred Warner, and as a 49ers blogger, I thought I would offer some insight into what kind of role Warner might have with the team.
For those who don’t know me (I imagine most of you!), I run SB Nation’s 49ers blog, Niners Nation. Robby took some time to answer questions I had about Warner, and it only seemed fair to offer what I know to y’all!
The 49ers entered the offseason looking to be in pretty good shape at linebacker. Although injuries remained a concern, 2017 rookie Reuben Foster had emerged as a force at middle linebacker (Mike). He was expected to start there this season, with Malcolm Smith at weak side linebacker (Will) and Eli Harold at strong side linebacker (Sam).
However, things took a turn in January and February. In January, Foster was arrested in Alabama for marijuana possession. In February, he was arrested in California for felony domestic violence and illegal firearm possession. The 49ers have chosen to not release Foster yet, instead waiting for the legal process to play out. The accuser recanted her statement to police, but the prosecutor is pushing forward, with a trial potentially happening in the next 60 or so days.
Foster could face a suspension regardless of the outcome of the case, and his status in general is a question mark. Malcolm Smith missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, but is back and reportedly at 100 percent heading into the upcoming OTAs and minicamp.
Warner will have a role on defense, but the specifics of it will likely depend on Foster’s availability. If Foster is not suspended or released and instead playing in Week 1, Warner would likely get his primary work in the nickel and dime sub-packages (and on special teams). If Foster is suspended or released when Week 1 arrives, Warner would get that sub-package work, but would be a strong contender for a starting linebacker role in the base 4-3.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has said the Mike and Will positions in the defense are similar, with the main difference being that the Mike handles the communication on defense. My guess is if Foster was not playing, Malcolm Smith would handle the Mike role and
Foster Warner would compete with reserve linebacker Brock Coyle for the Will role.