CBS Sports ranked the top-10 linebackers in the NFL with emphasis on the way the game is trending—meaning we should see the better linebackers that are in coverage closer to the top of the list while the old-school “thumpers” are being phased out. When I clicked, I knew Fred Warner was going to be listed—the only question was how high. If you objectively watched the NFL in 2019, you will not find ten linebackers better than Warner. I would say that on a Seahawks site because it’s the truth.
So, where does CBS rank Warner? Ninth. This is based on projecting the 2020 season only. Not what players did in the past, not how good they’ll be in five years, but this upcoming season only:
49ers’ Fred Warner Warner flies under the radar largely because he’s been playing on a stacked defense that has also included the likes of DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, and Richard Sherman — not to mention; the 49ers gave another linebacker, Kwon Alexander, a gigantic contract in free agency before last season. It feels like Warner’s production has been overshadowed.
But that’s not fair to Warner, who has blossomed into one of the league’s best linebackers since the team drafted him in the third round of the 2018 draft. Across two seasons, he’s already registered 242 combined tackles, ten tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits, three sacks, 15 passes defended, four forced fumbles, and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown. Over the past two seasons, only nine linebackers have recorded more combined tackles than Warner. Despite his consistent production, he’s yet to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl.
2020 feels like the year Warner will get the credit he deserves. All he has to do is keep playing the way he has over the past two years. Eventually, the credit he deserves will come. And after ending the season on a total tear, his best days appear to be ahead.
When you make these lists, you have no choice but to go based on what they’ve done in the past. With that said, I’m in full agreement with “2020 feels like the year Warner will get the credit he deserves.” Which is why there is no way he should be ninth on this list.
Roquan Smith from the Bears is No. 8 on the list, and you have seen nothing that he does better than Warner besides run faster. The Jets C.J. Mosley was No. 5 on the list, which was enough for me to stop reading. No, that doesn’t mean he’s bad, but if you polled defensive coordinators around the league, I guarantee 8/10 would pick Warner. One player can cover, and it isn’t Mosley.
Warner was “pretty good” his rookie season and flashed some high-level football IQ. In 2019, those flashes turned into the best coverage linebacker in the NFL. Some games it looked like Warner was taking an open-book test the way he sniffed out route combinations. There has been a lot of hype around certain 49ers this offseason, and nobody is as deserving as Warner. We’re in for a special season.