Having high end off the ball linebackers has become a necessity in a modern NFL that asks so much from its defenders at the second level. These players have to be able to cover and play in space, without compromising their ability to be an authoritative force near the line of scrimmage.
Thankfully, the 49ers have a dynamic duo of their own that allows them tremendous flexibility at all three levels of their defense. Those who watch this team closely know just how impactful Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are on a weekly basis, but does that same level of recognition exist on a national scale?
Pro Football Focus released a list of their top 32 linebackers heading into the 2023, and not only did both Warner and Greenlaw make the list, they both ranked among the top ten players at the position.
The list was broken up into seven tiers, with Warner placing in the first and Greenlaw slotting into the second. Not only did Warner fall into the first tier, he was also ranked as the number one linebacker overall on this list.
A well-deserved token of respect for the guy who has been the glue in the middle of what has been a top five defense four years running. No other linebacker in the league boasts the coverage ability that he does, making him the gold standard for the ideal backer in the wide open modern NFL. He should be a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but we can save that discussion for another day.
Greenlaw was ranked eighth overall on the list, falling into the second tier with some very prominent names like Roquan Smith and Bobby Wagner. It’s no coincidence the 49ers defense has been among the league's best every season since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
While his iconic goal line stand in Seattle has become what he is most recognized for, Greenlaw has been a vital cog in a smothering 49ers defense that has relied on his playmaking from sideline to sideline.
The 49ers were the only team on the list to have multiple players in the top ten, which earned them the title of best duo in the NFL from PFF. Entering their fifth year together in 2023, it’s reasonable to think that they haven’t yet reached their peak given both players are still in the heart of their primes.
Perhaps around this time next year we will be talking about both players pushing the top five together on a similar list.