49ers depth chart: Predicting who makes the cut at linebacker

Kwon Alexander #56 and Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Kwon Alexander #56 and Fred Warner #54 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Justin Hilliard, Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Justin Hilliard (47) Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Predicting 49ers linebacker depth chart in 2021

Maybe the Niners end up keeping five linebackers on the 53-man roster this season. But with the NFL Draft addition of in-the-box safety Talanoa Hufanga, who also hits like a linebacker and has blitz potential, assuming four linebackers are kept is probably the better bet.

  1. Fred Warner
  2. Dre Greenlaw
  3. Azeez Al-Shaair
  4. Justin Hilliard

Warner and Greenlaw are shoo-ins. No questions asked or needed there.

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The real pre-training camp storyline, though, is trying to determine which of the backup linebackers wind up making the regular-season crop.

Al-Shaair, despite having plenty of defensive woes his rookie season, flashed improvement in year two, and one might guess that’d be enough to ensure his spot on the depth chart, effectively leaving only one more roster spot up for grabs for players like Hilliard, Elijah Sullivan, James Burgess and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles.

Burgess and Sullivan are likely the weakest of the remaining candidates, and perhaps it’s a recency bias that gives Hilliard the edge over Flannigan-Fowles.

Or because EDGE Nick Bosa gave his endorsement to Hilliard.

The losers of this camp/preseason competition could all potentially be contenders for the practice squad, though, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of those names pegged as call-up reserves.

Let’s hope San Francisco doesn’t need them.

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