With the 31st overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama.
Considering that Foster has been pegged as a top-10 talent throughout the entire draft process, how can anybody not like this pick? An unreal athlete with the speed, strength, and motor to make plays all over the field, Foster is reminiscent of other do-it-all linebackers like Luke Kuechly.
The 49ers went into the first round of this draft and came out with two defensive players ranked at or near the top of their respective positions. The slide this far is surprising – perhaps due to Foster's combine outburst – but this was a no-brainer to build a defensive nucleus to compete in an ultra-tough division. There were some shoulder injury questions as well, but it is frankly shocking that he has fallen this far in the draft. (Matthew Olson)
6ft 0, 229 lbs. Senior. 2016: 115 tackles, 13 TFLs, 5 sacks, 8 QBHs, 2 PBUs.
The standout linebacker by some distance in this class, Foster has all the physical traits with size and incredible closing speed. His mental quickness also sees him diagnose and react before flying to the action, usually with a trademark big hit, clean but powerful. His all-round ability and athleticism sees him excel in space and coverage, a must for an early round pick at the position, and impresses in being able to disengage from blocks and navigate through traffic.
For all his skill in space though, he has never recorded an interception during college.
Foster has the lateral movement to cover sideline to sideline, as well as blitz late to generate additional backfield pressure. The instincts and intensity compliment the physical traits to create a dominant presence in the middle of the field. The two-year starter grades as highly as any prospect at the position in recent years for his play on the field.
Foster did measure in at the lower range of his weight level at the Combine (reported food poisoning beforehand), but is capable of playing effectively as high as 240 lbs on his frame, though with his explosion and speed being such dominant traits in his game, the preference is certainly to play more in the low 230’s.
Speaking of the Combine, Foster did not help himself at all with the incident that occurred in getting involved in a confrontation with medical staff that saw him sent home. Since then a diluted sample taken at the Combine gets defined as a positive test. Add in shoulder durability questions, and Foster’s stock is very fluid right now, with the potential to drop lower than his talents warrant. (Rebecca Rennie)