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2017 NFL Draft Profile: Reuben Foster

How high will Reuben Foster be drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft?

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama
Reuben Foster
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Myles Garrett is considered the best player in this draft, and for good reason. But, right behind him should be Alabama linebacker, Reuben Foster. On the Crimson Tide’s national runner-up team in 2016, Foster led ‘Bama with 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks. He was the MVP of the SEC Championship game and a first-team All-American. Foster also won the Butkus Award and was a finalist for the Bednarik Award.

All in all, he was arguably the top player in all of college football in 2016.

So, how does Foster translate to the NFL?

Reuben Foster

Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Jump Broad Jump
Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Jump Broad Jump
6'0" 229 32 3/4" 10 1/4" DNP DNP DNP DNP

Stats

Season Games Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defensed
Season Games Tackles Tackles For Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defensed
2016 15 115 13 5 0 2
2015 15 73 8 1 0 7
2014 9 23 2 1 0 0
Sports Reference

Strengths

Foster is a three-down mike linebacker, which is rare these days. In the modern NFL, teams need their inside linebackers to thrive in coverage. Foster can do just that. He’s a hard-hitter who relies on his instincts. What separates Foster from other instinctive linebackers is his outstanding athleticism. While Foster did not run the 40 at the Combine, all you have to do is turn on the film and watch him. No linebacker in college football plays as fast as Foster.

During his time at Alabama, Foster improved each year, earning the trust of head coach Nick Saban.

At the next level, Foster is versatile enough to play outside in a 4-3 defense as a weakside linebacker or in the middle. If he lands with the right team, Foster could be an All-Pro inside linebacker as a rookie. While he’s shown the ability to excel in coverage and chase down ball-carriers in the backfield, Foster can blitz, too. He’s truly the total package.


Weaknesses

There are some questions about Foster’s shoulders. Early in his career, Foster showed a tendency to drop his head when he tackled. That led to some shoulder issues. He had surgery on his rotator cuff in February and there are reports out there stating some teams aren’t happy with the medical re-checks of the shoulder, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports.

Foster, of course, was sent home from the Combine after getting into an argument with a hospital worker. That raised major questions about his character, although he apologized to all 32 NFL teams and it was later seen as no big deal. Though it can be a big deal this time of the year when teams dig deep into a prospect’s personal life.


About the Combine

Does Foster have character issues?

Not according to Saban, via Matt Zenitz of Alabama.com:

We never had issues with him. He's always been a great leader. He's a signal caller on defense. He's bright, and he's always been a great team guy and really well-liked by his teammates. If you're looking for a good teammate to be on your team, Reuben's going to be very, very good. If you're looking for someone to be a candy striper and to be nice to everyone at the hospital, then maybe not.

In fairness to Foster, it’s almost careless to use what happened at the Combine against him in regards to his character. It is one incident and he didn’t break the law. Teams that with him individually will have a better feel for Foster’s character.

However, a story broke on Thursday afternoon that Foster failed a drug test at the Combine. Having an argument with someone is one thing, flunking a drug test at the biggest job interview of your life is another. This story likely won’t go away anytime soon. Teams will likely drop Foster down their boards due to this.


Pro Comparison

Is there a player to compare Foster to in today’s NFL? Not really. Luke Kuechly may be the closest comparison.

Retired former Ole Miss star Patrick Willis may be the most accurate comparison. Willis dominated at the SEC level and was a star as soon as he stepped on the field for the 49ers. Willis, much like Foster, was a three-down star who was as strong in coverage as he was against the run.

If Foster impacts the game like Willis did as a rookie, someone is getting a star.


Highlights

Whether it’s going sideline to sideline, or exploding into the A gap, Foster dominates the line of scrimmage. Based on pure talent and projectability alone, Foster should be a top-five pick, however, some team will likely benefit from questions surrounding his shoulder and failing a drug test.