Name: Reuben Foster
Pro Team: San Francisco 49ers
College Team: Alabama
Draft Status: Round One, Pick 31
- Height: 6’0
- Weight: 230lbs.
- Hands: 10.25”
- Arm Length: 32.4”
- 40-Yard Dash: NA
- Vertical: NA
- Broad: NA
Swagger. Superman Toughness. Explosive. Rangy. Alpha. Coachable.
The “Reuben Missile Crisis” is an elite chase-and-tackle (annihilate) prospect. Leonard Fournette once said “the biggest hit I’ve ever taken,” about Foster after being held to 35 rushing yards on 17 carries. If you covet every-down linebackers, he is the prototype, and is considered a perfect fit for weak-side linebacker duty in the NFL.
Following in the legacy of former Alabama linebackers Derrick Thomas, Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, CJ Mosley, and Reggie Ragland was the reason Foster chose the Roll Tide. This Butkus Award Winner is on a career path to match or outperform those ‘Bama greats that came before him. Reuben has a well-documented family life that is almost hard to fathom, and it is the primary motivation behind his mental toughness.
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Medicals. Mechanics. Instincts.
Dropping your head to make violent hits will get you carted off the field. I have heard about the lofty comparisons to Luke Kuechly here, but I wonder if that is a hidden message about the concussion concerns as well. He simply cannot keep tackling with his head out of position. I have to wonder if Foster will be trying to add back some weight to help him stand up to the pounding he will take at the next level.
The comparisons that have been made to Bobby Wagner are a little more accurate… if I am sizing them up physically. Wagner was also touted as a great tackler that was too small to play MIKE ‘backer upon entering the league. The sole difference here being that Reuben does not possess elite instincts. Wagner has thrived as a MIKE with his ability to diagnose plays.
Last year was a mess at linebacker for the 49ers. Nick Bellore has left for Detroit, and his 700ish snaps are up for grabs. Gerald Hodges is now with Buffalo, so his 600ish snaps are also sitting there for the taking. Michael Wilhoite was third in snaps among this group with 500ish, and he is now a Seahawk! Of course, these snap counts reflect (yet another) season-ending injury to Navorro Bowman, but can we say that Bowman is good for taking back 700 snaps at this point?
The opportunity is ripe for a player drafted in the first round to fill a major void in this defensive unit. I can’t think of a better opportunity for any of this year’s linebackers to find themselves drafted to. He will be playing every snap behind a potentially great defensive line, and they will be forced to play a lot of snaps if that offense doesn’t get sparked by a Brian Hoyer revival.
Honestly, the only threat to Foster’s starting job is his recovery from surgery on his right rotator cuff in February. At that time, his initial recovery time-frame was projected at four months, so he should be good to go for the start of the season. Recently, the news sounded promising as Foster began training camp with no limitations.
The 49ers went out and signed Malcolm Smith away from Oakland paying him a guaranteed $18M over three years. He’s definitely sticking around at that price and profiles in a similar role to Foster. To his credit Malcolm Smith has been a decent IDP in the past, but does not get the same good merit for his actual play on the field. He could easily be third fiddle to a healthy Foster and NaVorro Bowman.
Reuben is expected to assume a three-down role in a high volume defense right away and will very likely start at weakside linebacker next to Bowman with a trio of first round defensive linemen playing in front of them. The potential for Defensive Rookie of the Year is real here, as he possesses the highest ceiling among this year’s rookie ‘backers. The stars are aligning for an immediate impact rookie in San Francisco.
The medicals are a concern. His play style is a concern. I know the violent nature and subsequent turnover that the linebacker position faces. You can reasonably expect Foster to miss some games in his years. Hopefully, he develops into a player that learns to take superior care of himself and limits the impact he is sure to take. I would love to see him develop into a player like Lavonte David, but so much would have to go right to become the LB1 every year. He has the ability; but dynasty owners need availability. We are all too familiar with the (rookie) injuries to linebackers.
Rookie Draft Advice
If you project Foster to be a top five NFL linebacker, as I do, you will want to draft him as soon as you see Jarrad Davis, LB DET come off the board. Davis is being drafted as this year’s LB1 because of his safe floor and medicals. I figure Foster to have the highest ceiling, so I’m using Davis as the barometer here.