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San Francisco 49ers star Fred Warner has been named the best off-ball linebacker in the NFL by a group of his peers, coaches and executives around the league.
In a survey conducted by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Warner was named the best player at his position with an AFC scout praising his all-around skill set.
“He’s the perfect new-age linebacker, good against the pass but can handle himself against the run, a big athlete with more leadership and communication,” the scout said.
While it’s hard to sum up all the things that make a player great in one game, his coverage of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb midway through the third quarter of the NFC Divisional Round was a good example of Warner’s unique ability.
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On a pivotal 3rd down in the 3rd quarter, Fred Warner closed a 9.7-yard gap between himself and CeeDee Lamb in a tight window when the pass arrived (0.8 yards), forcing an incompletion.
There has been a steady improvement by Warner throughout his career to become one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He was a third-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2018 and started all 16 games as a rookie.
Warner recorded a career-high three sacks in 2019 to help San Francisco reach the Super Bowl. The 26-year-old was named to his first All-Pro team in 2020 and recorded a career-high 137 combined tackles in 2021.
Last season saw Warner marry all the best aspects of his game. He is the only linebacker in the NFL to earn an 80-plus coverage grade in run and pass defense, per Pro Focus on Football metrics.
The 49ers are relying on Warner to do everything himself and wear the green dot to pass on the play calls for their defense.
Nick Bosa was named the Defensive Player of the Year last season for leading the NFL with 18.5 sacks, but Warner’s presence in the secondary has been crucial to San Francisco’s success on defense.
The 49ers rank first in the NFL in points allowed per game (16.3), yards allowed per game (300.6) and second in rushing yards allowed per game (77.7) in 2022.