I feel like I can fit in right away and do some damage. —Fred Warner
Fred Warner is on his way to San Francisco.
The San Francisco 49ers selected the former BYU outside linebacker early in the third round of Friday night's NFL draft, making him the No. 70 player taken overall.
"I am just so happy and proud of my son," said Warner's mother, Laura Warner shortly after her son was selected. "He has worked so hard to make his dream to come true. He is extremely focused and excited to start this new chapter!"
Warner beat most prognostications by going early in the third round. Some analysts, such as ESPN's Chris Low, weren't surprised and spoke highly of Warner's abilities.
"He's someone who can run, cover and blitz. In today's NFL, that's what you want out of a linebacker," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said during the draft telecast after the 49ers took Warner.
Warner also received praise from BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, who had a chance to work with him for two seasons.
“Fred is an exceptional football player and person and is prepared to succeed at the next level,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said in a released statement. “Fred has earned this opportunity, and I know he’ll take full advantage it. With his size and his athleticism, he is able to be a cover guy and also play inside the box, which is a rare combination to find. He is also a leader and extremely smart football player who knows the game. I’m really happy for Fred. He will represent himself and BYU very well in the NFL.”
As for Warner, the 49ers selecting him didn't come as a total surprise.
"Man, they just showed me so much love when I was out there," Warner told the 49ers in a phone interview. "Obviously I didn't know who would be giving me the call, but I'm just so excited to be with the 49ers."
Warner made his mark playing at outside linebacker for the Cougars, but could very well be seeing most of his reps at inside linebacker in the 49ers' 4-3 base alignment. The need may be an immediate one at the position, due to the uncertainty of current starter Rueben Foster's future.
"They really like my ability to break on balls and use my hands to attack defenders and tackle," Warner said of the 49ers' evaluation. "I feel like I can fit in right away and do some damage. I could play (two linebacker) positions, for sure, but I think they talked to me more about playing the Mike linebacker, but wherever they put me I'm going to go in there and work my (butt) off."
Warner had several teams evaluating him but stated those showing the most interest late were the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins, with each team flying him in for late evaluations.
Warner, a three-year starter for the Cougars, put up an impressive stat line during his time in Provo. He finished his college career with 264 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, seven interceptions, two pick-sixes, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. Warner led BYU in tackles his final two seasons there.
“There are more physical linebackers in this draft and guys with bigger reputations for being thumpers, but Warner is super athletic and has the ability to drop into coverage and be equally effective on passing downs, which makes him a commodity,” Low wrote.