The San Francisco 49ers report for training camp on July 25th, at which point position competitions will work their way into focus. Training camp also means we finally get to see the youngest and newest members of the 49ers get into pads and engage in some real contact with the team for the first time.
As training camp approaches, we thought it would be fun to take a look at each of the 49ers notable rookies, and consider the best and worst case scenarios for them this season. We are looking at draft picks and a handful of UDFAs. Additionally, by best and worst case scenario, I’m thinking realistic best and worst. Sure, they could become All Pros as rookies or could end up getting cut by the end of training camp. But let’s consider realistically what would be the best and the worst for each.
Today, we take a look at former BYU linebacker Fred Warner. After a 2017 season that saw the 49ers part with longtime inside linebacker (and fan favorite) NaVorro Bowman, and an early 2018 offseason that saw Reuben Foster’s future come into jeopardy, the team drafted Warner in the third round. Warner has the necessary size, speed, agility, and most importantly, uncommon ability in coverage (has extensive experience as a slot cover man) that make him an asset not only as an inside linebacker, but give him added value as a possible hybrid third-safety in big dime looks.
Best case scenario
He takes advantage of Foster’s two game suspension to start the year, and parlays that into a starting job, remaining at WILL while Foster moves into the MIKE position temporarily occupied by Malcolm Smith. The sky is the limit for Warner, as this system should ideally give him the luxury of playing to his strengths, which would be off the ball and in coverage. If that’s the case, it’s feasible that he could build a high profile quite quickly through consistent defense in the passing game.
Worst case scenario
Either Brock Coyle or Korey Toomer beat him out as the replacement during Foster’s suspension, and the team decides that Jimmie Ward is the best suited to be the primary dime defender. In this scenario, it’s still likely that he sees the field occasionally, especially to play a particular role. However, he ends up riding pine much of the season and is given few opportunities to string successes together, relegating him largely to a special teams presence.