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.
Selection: Fifth round (No. 148 overall)
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.”
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.
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.