Pro Football Focus ranks 49ers LBs best in NFL (again)

For the second year in a row, Pro Football Focus is crowning the 49ers linebacker group as the NFL's best.
San Francisco 49ers linebackers Fred Warner (L) and Dre Greenlaw (R)
San Francisco 49ers linebackers Fred Warner (L) and Dre Greenlaw (R) / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

A year ago at this time, Pro Football Focus came out with its positional rankings for all 32 linebacker corps entering the 2022 season.

You know who made it to No. 1? The San Francisco 49ers, of course.

Now, it would be fair to wonder whether or not the Niners would suffer some sort of ranking regression a year later, especially after losing one of their more unheralded and underappreciated backers, Azeez Al-Shaair, to the Tennessee Titans in NFL free agency.

That said, a group that boasts not one but two of PFF's top-10 individual linebackers, Dre Greenlaw (eighth) and All-Pro Fred Warner (first), probably should be toward the top again a year later despite the loss of Al-Shaair.

According to PFF, there's no change.

49ers reclaim No. 1 spot in Pro Football Focus' linebacker rankings for 2023

Losing Al-Shaair will be tough, but it's not as if San Francisco won't absorb that with its incredible depth. And that depth played a big reason why the 49ers stayed in PFF's No. 1 spot for linebacker groups entering 2023.

Warner and Greenlaw command all the attention, though, and it's Greenlaw's leap in 2022 that helped ensure this unit wouldn't drop from its top ranking a year ago, which PFF gladly pointed out:

"The 49ers boast two legitimate stars in Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Warner is the NFL’s most consistent coverage linebacker and posted a career-high 89.7 run-defense grade this past season, too. Greenlaw had a career year in 2022, earning a 79.6 overall grade bolstered by a nearly 20-point jump in coverage grade.

The group lost situational run defender Azeez Al-Shaair in free agency, but Oren Burks seems poised to take over that role.

The 49ers have the best pair of linebackers in football and the depth to fill in if one of them were to suffer a short-term injury. They are the current gold standard at the position."

Burks is only one name who could potentially fill the void left by Al-Shaair. The Niners are also welcoming competition from two returning veterans, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Marcelino McCrary-Ball, and both have special teams prowess, too.

Likewise, San Francisco spent two NFL Draft picks on linebackers, a Round 5 selection on TCU's Dee Winters and a Round 7 pick on Purdue's Jalen Graham.

While none of these names will overshadow Greenlaw or Warner anytime soon, at least the 49ers can count upon quality depth within this group.

In case you were wondering, PFF ranked the Los Angeles Rams' linebacker corps dead last in the NFL.

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