49ers lose 2-year hold atop PFF's list of best linebacker corps in NFL

At least the Niners' crop of linebackers didn't fall out of the top three in PFF's yearly rankings.
San Francisco 49ers linebackers Dre Greenlaw (57) and Fred Warner (54)
San Francisco 49ers linebackers Dre Greenlaw (57) and Fred Warner (54) / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The 49ers no longer boast the NFL's best linebacker corps after doing so the last two years, but it's understandable why.

For back-to-back years in 2022 and 2023, the San Francisco 49ers boasted the NFL's best linebacker corps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Heck, even NFL.com mirrored the Niners' placement atop this illustrious list, bragging about how San Francisco had an embarrassment of riches at the position, thanks largely to the elite duo of backers Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner.

Well, unfortunately, the 49ers no longer sit atop that list heading into 2024.

Pro Football Focus' Gordon McGuinness just ranked all 32 teams' linebacker corps again entering the new season and after both free agency and the NFL Draft. But the Niners, beset by one notable injury at the position, can't claim the No. 1 spot, according to his rankings.

But their fall isn't as bad as one might think.

49ers enter 2024 with No. 2 linebacker corps, per PFF

San Francisco dropped from the top spot to No. 2 on the list, according to McGuinness, falling behind only the New York Jets, who now claim the No. 1 berth.

McGuinness' reasoning behind the 49ers' fall makes perfect sense:

"Fred Warner, arguably the best linebacker in the NFL right now, has earned PFF grades above 80.0 in each of the past four seasons. The 49ers would have a case for the No. 1 spot if not for Dre Greenlaw’s injury in the Super Bowl, making his availability to start the 2024 season a question mark. But in signing De’Vondre Campbell, who has earned PFF grades above 65.0 in each of the past three seasons, they have given themselves a cushion."

Greenlaw's torn Achilles is a massive blow, one which arguably turned the tide in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl last February.

With his status very much in doubt for the start of the regular season, San Francisco opted to ink Campbell, the Green Bay Packers' former first-team All-Pro, as a quality fill-in to hold the line.

But Campbell isn't a Greenlaw at this stage of the former's career, and the 49ers don't exactly have a lot of proven depth behind those two and Warner, meaning the need for continued health is vital until Greenlaw returns at 100 percent.

Either way, seeing the Niners in the top two is still quite a plus, especially knowing Greenlaw probably won't be back until the middle of the season.

And, in case you were wondering (because you always are), the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals hold the last spot in PFF's rankings.

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