Fred Warner, a senior linebacker from BYU, appears to be highly sought after this draft season. According to Alex Marvez, the Southern California native has visits set up with the Broncos, Jets, Bills, Saints, Texans, and Cowboys. With a 6’3 3/8″ frame and the athleticism that he possesses, you can see why.
Warner is an experienced player who has played in 52 games and has put up some impressive numbers over the years. He finished his collegiate career with 262 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss, 7 interceptions, and 13 pass deflections.
At BYU he played a hybrid safety/linebacker role in the Cougars’ defense, a role that had him consistently lining up outside of the box, typically in the slot or as an overhang player in an under front. He had a lot of success out in space having played safety before, but mainly because he is a natural athlete.
Good closing speed by Warner, but the TE has to catch that. pic.twitter.com/DeyAr816Ed
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) February 26, 2018
He is one of the more fluid linebackers in this class who makes dropping to his zone with his eyes on the quarterback look easy.
Teams will be enamored with his abilities in pass coverage because he has the capabilities to play man, zone, or even pattern matching.
Warner (#4) shuts down this attempted bootleg. pic.twitter.com/s0jUjbX7Dj
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) March 29, 2018
As good as he is in space, he could be even more valuable as an inside linebacker. At the Senior Bowl, Warner lined up inside in the traditional Will and Mike linebacker roles and played rather well. His mental processing seemed quicker from pass to run because he stuck to his keys much better.
According to Warner himself, he sees himself playing a more traditional role at the next level.
“It was great for me to get a lot of repetition at that position because I played an unorthodox position in college. That’s not really a position in the NFL. I played out in space. It was more of a nickel position. I would come down towards the line of scrimmage here and there, but I felt like I was very comfortable playing that inside linebacker position. That’s where I ultimately see myself at the next level.”
While his play strength will not quite be up to par to consistently win vs. tackles and tight ends on Sundays, the closer he is to the line of scrimmage the better. It forces him to be more physical, a switch that he doesn’t always have turned on when out in space. And when you add physicality to his athleticism and understanding of leverage, he can be a true difference maker.
Good luck blocking Warner with a TE. Approaches this matchup with the intent to win with athleticism and hand usage, not power. pic.twitter.com/WqIsMGl4oP
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) February 26, 2018
“Game-wise, they (NFL teams) saw me as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Weakside or inside linebacker, thanks to my ability to run and cover. On the 4-3, I can play as a WILL linebacker who’s able to run and cover. When I would talk with teams, we talked about playing those positions.”
Warner was very disruptive as an edge player over the course of his career, but that can be taken to a whole new level in his possible new role in the NFL because he is quick, able to avoid blocks and slide through gaps to disrupt runs before they can develop.
Warner is a scheme-versatile linebacker with safety-like skills, so he is going to be a hot commodity this draft. But he isn’t a finished product; he needs to increase his play strength and improve his angles to the ball and tackling. He averaged approximately 10 missed tackles per season in college.
He will more than likely chosen on day two or early day three and could see the playing field early in his career.
2016 BYU vs. Boise State
If you have studied McDermott’s defenses, you know that he loves the Buffalo Nickel. A personnel group where he matches up his base defense vs passing formations. Guys like Warner are crucial to executing that. Ability to match up vs WRs, TEs, RBs in the box and in space. pic.twitter.com/2dB7hnNG59
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) April 14, 2018
Here is a quarters coverage variant with Warner dropping down to take the RB. BYU got lucky that the WR dropped it, because typically the OLB here is supposed to take speed off of that route before passing him onto safety..This variant gave the WR a free release. pic.twitter.com/doj4zubCRT— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 14, 2018
Warner avoids the pulling lineman and assists with the tackle. pic.twitter.com/co44xk3Iti— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 14, 2018
This was an incredible play by Warner, takes his reads steps downhill as he is the C-gap defender, but then reads pass, finds the crosser and easily gets into position to make a play on the ball. A tremendous effort to take it the distance. pic.twitter.com/1o4IqsOlF1— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 14, 2018
Comfortable away from the ball, in space. Warner & Milano pic.twitter.com/5KdTgS4vPF— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 14, 2018
Warner is responsible for the C-gap but he is unable to disengage versus the down block.
As a perimeter defender Warner was picked off by push-crack blocks by wide receivers. Quicker recognition and awareness will help him overcome these situations.
Warner does a great job of squeezing the route but he gets caught while trying to flip his hips. At that point turn to the defender and run. pic.twitter.com/15gNFXt1AT— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 14, 2018
Very good recognition by Warner on the gap run. Gets downhill, leads with his hands, leverages his gap (outside) then disengages and assists on the back when the running back commits inside.
Warner is on the hash and he gets run over by the receiver. Good angle but his approach, pad level and tackling are bad. If anyone should be getting lit up its the offensive player. Warner has him pinned! SMH pic.twitter.com/H2e5KtNUvd— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 14, 2018
Very good range and angle to the ball by Warner but overplays the offensive player. Sticks with it and forces a fumble. Tackling is definitely an area he needs to improve on. pic.twitter.com/G7MrLXexyk— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 14, 2018
I like his athleticism and angles in space but he isn’t an aggressive tackler. Here the offense runs an RPO and he closes the gap but then waits for the receiver to make a move instead of attacking the ball.
On this play Warner is along the perimeter and comes downhill to make the tackle. But again, he needs to improve his tackling approach and technique. Need him to wrap up the ballcarrier instead of just launching at him.
A similar play but later in the game and this time he wraps up properly.
Look at him attack the D gap, the TE takes that angle on Warner, but he uses his hands and leverage to disengage while containing the play. pic.twitter.com/70INoip8eP— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018
Warner reads the hinge block by the tackle, the H-back flowing away, so he sifts through traffic and makes the tackle. pic.twitter.com/kEkhGDodoG— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018
Warner is just sooo good when he is playing outside-in, able to use angles and his athleticism. pic.twitter.com/FOMFSl0p8W— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018
Appears to be weakside BOB with the FB coming for Warner. The center widens the hole right into the FB. Active feet, waits for the RB to commit then closes. pic.twitter.com/Wjf6oKLWG6— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018
This is beautiful...Anyone else noticing the #Bills showing interest in hybrid guys like Warner, Nwosu, Thompson, Armstrong etc? Edge/LBs from teams that play a lot of odd front.. pic.twitter.com/YZr2vDHFLu— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018
He does have physicality & size to play Mike. Can he do it without the angles? I think he will be fine. Plus, I care more about the passing game and he is an asset in that area. pic.twitter.com/E6wE0IvbC6— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018
This is why the #Bills are interested in Warner. Look at the zone spacing. Plays deep to short, if the QB throws it short he can rally in the time it takes to get the ball across the field. pic.twitter.com/KljgPeqSRg— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018
Warner works over the top of the OL and forces the fumble. pic.twitter.com/LjTEJfEogD— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 20, 2018