2019 NFL Draft: 49ers add to depth by drafting LB Dre Greenlaw

2019 NFL Draft: 49ers add to depth by drafting LB Dre Greenlaw

The 49ers added to their defensive depth on Saturday with the selection of Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw in the fifth round with the No. 148 overall pick.

Greenlaw is the fourth player the 49ers have chosen from the Senior Bowl. Greenlaw played on the North team. The 49ers coached the South squad, but they met with all the North players during the week.

Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd were on the South team, though Hurd spent just one day in Mobile, Ala., before withdrawing due to an injury. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky was on the North team.

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Dre Greenlaw

Position: Linebacker
College: Arkansas
Height: 5-11
Weight: 237
Selection: Fifth round (No. 148 overall)

Scouting report

Greenlaw played four seasons at Arkansas, where he was a team captain as a senior. He totaled 321 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and four sacks with three interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his career.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Greenlaw (5-foot-11, 237 pounds) bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times, had a 33-inch vertical leap and a 117-inch broad jump. He did not run at the combine due to a hamstring injury. He ran a 4.73 time in the 40-yard dash, but he plays a lot faster than that.

“It will be difficult for Greenlaw to make a living with nothing more than clean-up tackles on his own side of the ball so he needs to turn that speed and athleticism into weapons of disruption,” analyst Lance Zierlein wrote on NFL.com. “His speed and athleticism give him a chance to carve out a career as a special teams ace and nickel cover talent.”

Projected role

Greenlaw was scheduled to make a pre-draft visit to Santa Clara to meet with the 49ers, but the trip was canceled. He was on the Raiders-coached North team at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., but met there at length with linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans.

Greenlaw has the versatility to play inside linebacker or outside linebacker. He did not play much special teams in college because of his every-down role on defense, but he figures to be a core special-teams contributor. He could put himself in position to have a more significant role on defense if Kwon Alexander is slow to return -- or sustains a setback -- in his rehab from ACL surgery.

[RELATED: 49ers draft pick Hurd switched to receiver for longer NFL career]

What they’re saying

"We had him a lot higher on our board, so we're surprised, frankly, that he dropped this far. And felt like there was tremendous value in the pick. He's a guy that was at the Senior Bowl on the other squad, so we got to be around him by virtue of that. Being at the practices, watching him, we felt he was a really good fit for what we do" -- GM John Lynch.

"The 40 that he clocked was slower than what he plays. He ran a 4.73, but the reports out of Arkansas is that on the Catapult, the GPS stuff, he's the fastest player on their team, and that shows up on film. We're really high on the kid, too. We met with him in Indy and felt very good about him" -- Lynch.

"Everything today after the punter was really just who we thought had chances to make our team. And we started right there (with Greenlaw) because that was a guy we had ranked higher. We were surprised that he was there. And he does have a very good opportunity to make our team and we feel fortunate to get him where we did" -- 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

“What they told me was that they obviously see my tape and see me coming in and playing with the linebackers and they like my versatility. They like the way I run. They like the way I hit. They like my physicality. And special teams or whatever they need me to do, I’m going to play and do whatever the coaches tell me to do” – Greenlaw on what the 49ers told him about his role.

“I had a lot of contact with (Ryans) at the Senior Bowl. We played against them. I was with the other team. He just said he really liked my film. He saw some of my practice tape and liked some of the stuff I did. I was supposed to go down for a 30 visit with them and they canceled my 30 visits, and that really hurt my heart. . . . It came out they still wanted me. I’m blessed. . . It sounds like they were trying to keep it a secret” – Greenlaw on the contact he had with the 49ers through the draft process.

“It was very important. Just the fact I couldn’t do much at the combine. So you’ve got the biggest thing at the Senior Bowl. For me to be healthy then and be able to showcase my talent and be able to run with shoulder pads on and make some plays out there, I thought was the biggest thing for me” – Greenlaw on the importance of showing his skills at the Senior Bowl.

Arkansas coach Chad Morris weighed in via Twitter after the 49ers' selection of his former player.



49ers roster analysis: Ascending linebackers should make group better in 2020

49ers roster analysis: Ascending linebackers should make group better in 2020

This is the seventh installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020 and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ linebackers.

Under contract (signed through)

-Kwon Alexander (2022)
-Fred Warner (2021)
-Dre Greenlaw (2022)
-Mark Nzeocha (2021)
-Azeez Al-Shaair (2021)
-Joey Alfieri (2021)
-Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (2021)

The 49ers and Alexander agreed to a contract restructure in November that saves the team more than $8 million in cap space for the 2020 season. His salary is set to leap to $12.55 million in 2021. Three voidable years were added to his contract. He is still scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the 2022 season.

Expiring contracts

-Elijah Lee (RFA)

Lee was among the 49ers’ final cuts and was signed to the practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster for the final eight games of the regular season after Alexander went on injured reserve. Lee saw action in each of the 49ers’ three postseason games as a core special-teams contributor.

What needs to happen

The 49ers’ only real decision is with Lee, who is a restricted free agent. The lowest tender of $2.144 million is probably too much, but the 49ers can look to re-sign him to a minimum level contract.

But even with some uncertainty surrounding Lee, the 49ers appear set with their starters and backups. The 49ers certainly do not need to spend free-agent money to add a player. And they do not need to use one of their top draft picks to bring in a linebacker, either.

[RELATED: 49ers roster analysis: Work needed to keep up defensive line dominance]


This position group is comprised of players who are all ascending. The unit was good in 2019. It should be better in 2020.

Warner was one of the breakout stars for the 49ers as a second-year player. He had an interception of Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl that looked, at the time, to be one of the big plays in that game. Warner believes he can make improvements in all areas, including the production of more game-changing types of plays.

Alexander sustained a torn pectoral in the middle of the season. Then, worked hard to get back for the playoffs. Although he settled back into the 49ers’ defense as a part-time player, Alexander still served an important role on the team due to his leadership and energy.

Greenlaw became an every-down player after Alexander’s injury and made one of the most memorable plays of the season when he stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line to preserve the 49ers’ Week 17 win to clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs. It will be difficult to keep Greenlaw off the field.

Al-Shaair, who defied the odds to win his roster spot last season as an undrafted rookie, and Nzeocha are solid backups and core special-teams players, too.

NFL free agency: A.J. Green would fit 49ers, but health risks are real


NFL free agency: A.J. Green would fit 49ers, but health risks are real

A.J. Green last played in an NFL game on Dec. 2, 2018. He injured his toe in that game, and underwent season-ending surgery shortly after.

Green then missed all of last season, as the Cincinnati Bengals' star receiver dealt with an ankle injury. And yet, he's one of the biggest names set to hit free agency next month.

So, should the 49ers take a run at signing the seven-time Pro Bowl pick? Talent-wise, yes. But it's not that simple.

Green, who turns 32 years old on July 31, has played in just nine games in the last two seasons. He has missed 29 games since 2016 and isn't getting any younger. But he's also one of the most talented receivers in the league when healthy.

The former No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft started his career with five straight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards. He was well on pace to extending that streak in 2016 when he had 964 receiving yards in 10 games and then had 1,078 in 2017.

San Francisco simply doesn't have any receivers with Green's kind of pedigree. Deebo Samuel opened eyes as a rookie, and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The 49ers have to add talent around the young South Carolina product, though.

Green also is the kind of large target that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan hopes to give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Samuel is listed at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds. Green, however, is 6-4 and 210 pounds.

One NFL executive believes Green hopes to move on from the Bengals this offseason, too. 

"I think he wants out of Cincinnati," the exec told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. 

That, however, isn't in Bengals coach Zac Taylor's plans

"He's a guy that we're excited about to have part of this team, first and foremost. That’s what matters right now," Taylor said Thursday in his interview on the '"Bengals Beat Podcast." "As we go through the offseason, we'll figure out how it best fits. But right now, we expect him to be a part of the team. We want him to be a part of the team.

"He's certainly been a valuable member for the last couple years and done some great things. I'm excited to coach him, really for the first time this next season."

Green signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Bengals in 2015. He will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time this offseason, and the veteran still could sign another hefty contract. The same executive told ESPN that "even 'B' receivers are getting $14 million to $15 million."

The 49ers currently have just under $17.9 million available in cap space this offseason, according to Spotrac. San Francisco also has its own contracts to take care of in free agent Arik Armstead, as well as extensions for George Kittle and DeForest Buckner. 

[RELATED: Why 49ers could add Gabriel to receiver mix this offseason]

One way or another, the 49ers should look to give Jimmy G more weapons this offseason. This year's NFL draft class is loaded with receivers, and the front office could make that their priority with their first pick. There's no doubt Green could be a great option in free agency, but it all comes down to health.

"As long as the foot checks out, he's still elite," an NFC personnel evaluator said to ESPN.

That's a big if, though. Green is one talented question mark.