49ers 53-man roster: Power ranking each unit entering 2021

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Fred Warner, SF 49ers
Fred Warner #54 of the SF 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

2nd: Linebackers

Starters: SAM Azeez Al-Shaair, MIKE Fred Warner, WILL Dre Greenlaw

Backups:  Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Marcell Harris

There is a reasonable argument that Fred Warner is the best player on the 49ers roster, and as a result, his position group rises up near the top.

Warner is the definition of a game-changer at the middle linebacker position; his ability to cover slot receivers and eradicate the middle of the field better than most cornerbacks not only fundamentally changes the way offenses can attack the 49ers, but it allows defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to become aggressive and varied in his coverages knowing the responsibilities he can give to Warner.

Warner was totally deserving of his hefty contract extension and slots in nicely at the middle of the field.

Because the Niners play a considerable amount of nickel, SAM (strongside) linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is less important than most starters, but he’s still a decent option for a linebacker predicated upon playing the run. His spot though may very well be taken by Marcell Harris, the former converted safety whose aggressive mindset in the box plagued him regarding coverages as safety but may help him excel as a linebacker.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowlers is a depth player who still has some potential, but as a fifth linebacker, a team can do worse.

That leaves the WILL (weakside) linebacker, Dre Greenlaw.

Greenlaw is a fascinating player. Though he was drafted primarily because of his ability in coverage as a former safety, Greenlaw’s stronger suit in the NFL has been run-stopping. Greenlaw is without a doubt an above-average starter at weakside linebacker, and coupled with Warner, comprise what is most likely a top-five, if not top-10, linebacking duo.

There’s a high chance Greenlaw takes a step forward this year and continues his development, but as it stands, this linebacking unit is one of the best position groups on the roster.

Too bad it can’t hold a candle to the next one.