49ers GM Compares 5th-Round Pick Dee Winters to $16 Million Defender

San Francisco 49ers, Dee Winters

Getty Future San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dee Winters during his time at TCU.

When evaluating draft picks, pundits, scouts, and fans alike often try to compare college prospects to players in the NFL as a way to envision their usage and role in the professional game. Even John Lynch, the San Francisco 49ers‘ general manager, isn’t immune to evaluation technique as, during his post-draft interview with reporters, the Pro Football Hall of Famer compared 2023 fifth-round pick Dee Winters to a player fans of the team know very well: Dre Greenlaw.

“Dee kind of fits who we are,” Lynch told reporters via NBC Sports Bay Area. “He is a player who drew some comparisons. Comparisons are dangerous because you have to go do it, but he has similar traits to [LB] Dre Greenlaw. A similar suddenness to his game.”

Though it may seem superfluous to draft a player with similar traits to Greenlaw after he just signed a two-year, $16,4 million extension with the Niners in September of 2022, the Arkansas product will be an unrestricted free agent once more in the spring of 2025, when Winters will be preparing for his third professional season on a four-year contract. If Greenlaw leaves the team for one reason or another, having a player like Winters who can immediately step in and replace him is valuable.

Dee Winters Is a Huge Fan of Fred Warner

Asked about his familiarity with the 49ers’ starting linebackers, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, by reporters after the draft, Winters noted that he’s a big fan of the former and even modeled his game after the BYU product during his time at TCU.

“I’ve been watching Fred Warner for about two years now, ever since I transitioned from safety to linebacker,” Warner said via 49ers Webzone. “I just found somebody I feel like my game kind of models. I think Fred Warner is probably one of the top linebackers in the league and that’s definitely somebody I look up to. I’m definitely excited to get to work with him and kind of follow in his footsteps. I’ve been a little familiar with the scheme. I met with San Francisco quite a bit throughout this process. Like I said, I’m excited to get to work with [linebackers coach] Johnny Holland and those guys.”

Even if Winters is more a fit on the weakside than the strongside, the 49ers do have an opening at SAM linebacker after the departure of Azeez Al-Shaair in free agency, so the TCU product may be afforded a chance to play alongside Warner in the not-too-distant future.

Dee Winters Screams 49ers Future Leader

Discussing what was enticing about selecting Winters in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL draft, Lynch complemented the TCU product for his leadership as he was a captain at TCU and a leader of their defense.

“… Anyone who I would talk to would talk about Dee Winters as being a real leader on that team,” Lynch told reporters. “He’s another captain and the unequivocal leader for that defense and the voice of that defense.

“That carried weight as well, and ultimately, we felt like Dee was just a guy we needed to bring in. We’re really excited to take him.”

Could the day eventually come when Winters not only plays alongside Warner in the 49ers’ starting lineup but replaces him entirely as the 49ers’ defensive headset wearer? Only time will tell, but it’s clear Lynch liked what he saw in the collegiate Horned Frog, and that played a part in why he’s on the team.

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