Former BYU Cougars linebacker Fred Warner is ripping it up in San Francisco

Fred Warner was special at BYU and he is continuing that lofty play in the NFL. His recent performance earned him NFC Player of the Month honors and high praise from BYU coaches.

Just give him a chance. He’ll deliver Freddie Ball.

And, at least for now, he’s doing it for 10 cents on the dollar.

Fred Warner is tearing it up for the San Francisco 49ers defense and his foray into the highest in-season recognition in the NFL isn’t lost on proud BYU football coaches monitoring his progress.

“He doesn’t need to be compared to anybody. Fred is making a name for himself.” — BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb, on Fred Warner

His playmaking has made the 49ers front office look genius for getting a steal as a third-round pick in 2018.

Warner was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November after he rated the highest two-game performance of any linebacker in the NFL according to a matrix by Pro Football Focus.

In November, Warner had 44 tackles, three sacks, four tackles for losses, three quarterback hits and two game-changing forced fumbles.

“I’ve been really impressed with the way he’s picked up middle linebacker, like the technical part of it,” said BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb.

Watching Warner and New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been a guilty pleasure for the Cougars staff and aside from Van Noy’s Super Bowl appearances, now Warner’s gobbling up some star time.

Fred Warner 2019 stats

Total tacklesAssisted tacklesSacksPass deflectionsForced fumbles
10479383

“When he was playing outside linebacker for us, his techniques allowed him to play a little higher, a little more backpedal, sometimes a little more turn and run using speed,”  said Lamb.

“Now, at the inside linebacker position, he’s in a lower crouch. He’s in a great football position all the time and his hand striking (is very good) and he sheds blocks well while he keeps his feet buzzing. I’ve been just really impressed. I watched the 49ers really close, taking a look at his technique and he’s made that transition really well.”

After collecting nine tackles (six solo) in a 29-22 loss to Atlanta last Sunday, Warner leads the 49ers in tackles and has surpassed 100 (104) for the second straight season.

Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Fred Warner (4) celebrates a good play in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. | Jeffrey D. Allred

Lamb said Warner had all the tools back in college when he was a standout. Warner not only picked things up fast, but excelled.  

“Always did it. The thing about him is whatever we asked is what he would do from special teams to defense. So, when the 49ers called me thinking about drafting him and the question was, ‘Do you think he can play inside?’ I thought at that time that he reminded me of Donnie Edwards, who played a long time for the Chargers, was never the most physical linebacker but racked up 10 tackles every game. Edwards was a great player at UCLA before that, but more on the outside edge than he was inside. Now that I’ve watched Fred, he’s a different player than Don.”

Lamb believes Warner plays more downhill, is more physical, more aggressive and sheds blocks cleaner. 

“He doesn’t need to be compared to anybody. Fred is making a name for himself.”

Warner is having a Pro Bowl-type year and 49ers general manager John Lynch said the second-year player is far better than he believed he would be when the team considered him for the draft two years ago. 

During a game in early November, a mic’d up 49ers tight end George Kittle said Warner may be his favorite player ever.

Warner’s impact on the 49ers defense was the subject of a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, pointing out that this investment has turned out to be better than linebackers who were drafted higher and paid more by the franchise. These include injured players Malcolm Smith, Reuben Foster and Kwon Alexander.

Smith, a former Super Bowl MVP, signed for a guaranteed $12 million in 2017 but was released in August after playing in just 12 games. Alexander signed a $54 million contract last year but an injury will keep him out of the last eight games this season.

Foster has had shoulder injuries since being picked in the first round in 2017 and was released after his third arrest in 10 months.

Warner is making $663,137 as the 70th pick in the 2018 draft. And he’s the most dependable defender on the team at a bargain basement price.

“He’s the last guy in the facility every day,” rookie edge rusher Nick Bosa told the Chronicle. “Yesterday was our off day. I was at home waiting for him to get on Xbox with me and he didn’t leave here until 5 on our off day.”

BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said he is happy for Warner and he’s deserves everything that comes his way.

“We knew that he would end up being a steal for somebody,” said Tuiaki. 

“There are always questions in the NFL and who they’re comparing him to but for us, we just knew what kind of player he is and we are really happy to see the success that he’s had.  He’s always been a hard worker and always a very smart kid. “

The Bay’s now got Freddie Ball, a best buy, indeed.