The 49ers on Friday drafted BYU linebacker Fred Warner with their first of two third-round picks.
Who is he? Warner fits the mold for a 49ers linebacker in that he's got very good speed and is good in coverage. He led BYU last year with 87 tackles along with one interception and five pass breakups. At 6-3 he's taller than most inside linebackers and should be a good matchup against tight ends and even receivers going across the middle. Warner played in space at BYU -- he said he lined up opposite the offense's slot receiver nearly 90 percent of the time -- and some teams were wondering if he'd be a strong safety in the NFL. Like Dante Pettis in Round 2, Warner was one of the 49ers' 30 pre-draft visits. He scored a 32 on his Wonderlic intelligence test, one of the highest scores at his position. That suggests he should have no problem calling the plays for the defense, one of the responsibilities of a "Mike" linebacker in San Francisco's scheme.
Where does he fit? With Reuben Foster out indefinitely, there's room for someone to move into the starting lineup next to Malcolm Smith. Both are probably best as weak-side linebackers, but Warner will compete with Brock Coyle, Korey Toomer and others for playing time this season. Coyle, who started 10 games at "Mike" linebacker last year, likely will miss most of the spring drills while recovering from a torn labrum.