The 49ers certainly have the best middle linebacker in the NFL -- his name is Fred Warner. But do they have the best off-ball linebacker duo in their own division, the NFC West?
Let's rank them from worst to best.
NOTE: I'm ranking linebacker duos, not trios, because the NFL has become primarily a nickel defense league, with four defensive linemen, five defensive backs and two linebackers. The game has evolved.
4. Los Angeles Rams: Micah Kiser and Kenny Young.
The Rams spend most of their salary cap space on eight or nine players, so naturally they have to cut corners somewhere on their roster, and they choose to cut corners at linebacker. Kiser and Young are bargain starters. Young recently signed a one-year deal worth roughly $2 million, and Kiser will earn less than $1 million next season. They're ordinary.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins.
These are not bargain starters, these are first-round picks -- Simmons last year and Collins this year. Simmons struggled at the beginning of the 2020 season because the Cardinals didn't know where to play him. But by the end of the season, they moved him to middle linebacker and he excelled. So he has big-time talent, and so does Collins. But both still have much to prove.
2. Seattle Seahawks: Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks.
Wagner is a future Hall of Famer. He's the best off-ball linebacker the NFL has seen since Patrick Willis, because he does everything well and still plays at an incredibly high level. Brooks was a rookie first-round pick last season who was solid as a part-time player, but now he must replace long-time starter K.J. Wright. Impossible to say how Brooks will do.
1. The 49ers: Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.
As good as Wagner is, Warner is better, because Warner is so much younger. Plus Warner is the most cerebral defensive player in the league regardless of position -- he's smarter than most quarterbacks. And his running mate, Dre Greenlaw, is faster than Warner, and a harder hitter, too. Which means the 49ers have the best off-ball linebacker duo in the NFC West. It's elite.